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Specializing in cardiology, Rebecca Aiken is a board-certified acute care nurse practitioner at the Northwest Hospital Heart Failure Clinic, a part of  LifeBridge Health. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

What led you to go into your health care field? Was there a specific life experience?

As a teenager with a love of animals, I wanted to become a veterinarian. Working at a veterinary hospital confirmed my desire to work in health care, but shifted my focus to caring for people who could actively participate in health promotion. I explored nursing and medicine which both offer unique opportunities and challenges in serving individuals and communities. Nurse practitioners, who have an advanced degree allowing them to diagnose and treat medical conditions while incorporating care from the nursing model, seemed like the best of both worlds. Therefore. I decided to gain invaluable experience as a critical nurse before earning a master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner.

What has been the most challenging part of the pandemic for you and how have you met that challenge?

The uncertainty in the early days of the pandemic created such anxiety and fear in patients and health care providers alike. We continually had to restructure how we cared for patients. In treating patients with certain types of heart failure, we prescribe several medicines and adjust them to the highest tolerated doses to help the heart get stronger. During this process, patients must be closely monitored, including regular physical exams and blood work, to evaluate how they tolerate the medications. Every day, we questioned whether optimizing medications in stable patients was worth bringing them into the office and increasing their risk of COVID exposure. We quickly shifted to virtual visits to engage with patients while being transparent about the inherent limitations. We prioritized medication adjustments that didn’t require repeat bloodwork.

This is a winner profile from The Daily Record's Health Care Heroes awards. Information for this profile was sourced from the honoree's application for the award.