Rachel McCumbers, NP

Rachel McCumbers, MS, CRNP, FNP- BC
Cardiac Surgery Nurse Practitioner

I have been a nurse practitioner at University of Maryland Heart and Vascular Center since January 2015, after working in the cardiac surgery intensive care unit as an RN for six years. I am fascinated by the human body in general, but the heart has always been most interesting to me. It is one of my greatest honors to care and comfort those who are faced with the need for cardiac surgery.

I’ve spent so much time in the last year just connecting and communicating with my patients. They are an older population in general and have suffered greatly due to isolation, fear, and lack of social interactions during the pandemic. With telemedicine as an additional option for appointments, I am able to talk through their concerns, make referrals and suggestions when appropriate, and simply allow patients to share their experiences from the comfort of home. I’ve cried with them at times hearing some of the devastating stories and effects of COVID-19.

What I love most about being a nurse practitioner is the perfect balance between nursing and medicine. I love the relationship between the surgeons and interventional cardiologists with whom I work. My role enhances their ability to perform more operations or complete more procedures in the cath lab and gives the patient an additional care provider for any questions or concerns. I remember recently one of the physicians I work with said to our team, "If you want something done perfectly and consistently, get a nurse practitioner to do it". From the appreciation I receive from patients, to the mutual respect from my colleagues, to the satisfaction when my efforts improve a process, I've had so many rewarding moments that it would be impossible to list them all.

I am also blessed to be the program manager for the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) program at UMMC. We are multidisciplinary in every sense of the word and incorporate many participants from cardiology, cardiac surgery, anesthesia, radiology, echocardiology, electrophysiology, vascular, nursing, respiratory, administration and so many more. We have worked so hard to join all these teams together and this approach has improved outcomes, decreased lengths of stay, decreased cost, and received positive feedback from our patients. It is proof that working together is best for our patients.

One of the most rewarding moments in my career was when I started the new heart monitoring program following a TAVR to detect abnormal heart rhythms and immediately alert patients to get them treatment. This program was comprehensive and took great effort and an abundance of time but it proved valuable because it protected someone's life! Truthfully, every day is the most rewarding day of my career because the core team I work with makes sure to let me know my value and worth.

There are challenges when working in a large academic medical institution but the key is to always stay patient-centered, and I couldn't ask for a better place to spend my career.