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I'm Aware That I'm Rare: the phaware® podcast

A new podcast series devoted to raising global pulmonary hypertension awareness with dynamic stories from PH patients, caregivers and medical professionals from around the world. New Episodes every Monday & Thursday!

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Tiffany Olka, RN - phaware® interview 255

Jun 14, 2019

Tiffany Olka, RN gives an overview of the University of Minnesota Medical Center's Center for Pulmonary Vascular Disease and Right Heart Failure.

My name is Tiffany Olka, and I'm a pulmonary hypertension nurse. I work out of the University of Minnesota Cardiology Clinic. We have both inpatient and outpatient teams, and I'm on the outpatient side in the clinical setting.

I'm what is considered a nurse coordinator, and we're in the clinic with the patients during their visits. So, after the provider goes in, talks to them, comes up with that care plan, then we follow in afterwards, talk to them about the new medications, talk to them about testing that's going on. Or, if they are that new diagnosed patient, reassuring them, talking to them a little bit more about the diagnosis, and answering any questions they have. Then, on days that we aren't in clinic, we're talking to them about their medications, how they're doing during the titrations, getting those medications approved for them, and when they can't get funding, helping them get the funding.

So, we're kind of that bridge between the patient and the provider and helping be that full circle of care. We're their first point of contact. So, when they are calling in with those issues, whether it be weight gain or side effects from the medications, we're that patient's first point of contact. And then, we can vet their problems, see what's going on, and then make that bridge to the provider.

I think the best win is those newly diagnosed patients. They're scared. You go into the room and you can just see them hanging from the rafters, just because they don't quite know everything yet, and they just got a diagnosis that's pretty serious. So, being able to go in there and talk to these patients, and follow up with them, and see them be more at ease with what their new normal is going to be is one of the best things.

One thing that I think is so special to our clinic is, we have a clinical administrative assistant who is very connected with those patients during that prior authorization process. So, he gets those prior authorizations approved. As soon as they're approved, once it goes to pharmacy, he is kind of that bridge of getting that medication approved, making sure that copay isn't too high. And if it is, going out and finding that funding for the patient and letting them know, "Okay, this assistance program is open. Call them right now." Or, just helping those patients navigate through that system, because it can be so confusing.

We have a very active social worker in our team who can help coordinate the rides, or making sure that if they are going home, that they have those medications already set up for shipment. Or, if they're getting sent to a TCU [Transitional Care Unit], making sure that they're getting sent to an appropriate TCU that will have those medications available to the patients. So, that's one thing that is fantastic.

Another thing that we do is, we create our pamphlets and handouts for the patients so that when they are first coming in, we're not handing them a huge book at them. Throw the book at them, per se. But giving them those smaller materials first to kind of get their feet wet, and then move on to more complex information. We're also very active with our support groups in our community. So, I think that's really nice, too.

We have a huge clinical trial department where the research team as well as the clinical team work very closely together. They go through the lists of each patient that's coming in that week. And if they look like they would be a good candidate, then it's my job to make that bridge to those patients so we can get them in those clinical trials when they're interested. This community's fantastic. These patients are absolute fighters, and I've never seen somebody put up a battle better than they do.

I'm Tiffany Olka, and I know that you are rare.

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