Since earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2001, Loretta Heggelund’s career has centered on cardiovascular care, from telemetry to cardiovascular intensive care and emergency at Our Lady of Lourdes Heart Hospital.
“I’ve always been interested in and fascinated by cardiology,” Heggelund says. “With recent advances in medical technology, it's amazing to witness what we can do to help our patients.”
Heggelund decided she could further help patients by advancing her education through UL Lafayette’s online Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner degree program as well as the online Graduate Certificate in Cardiovascular Nursing.
Heggelund was seeing patients at the intervention stage, but she wanted to help patients better manage their cardiovascular health to prevent those measures.
“We see many patients in the ER who don’t have primary care providers. Obtaining my advanced practice degree gives me the opportunity to help those patients,” Heggelund says. “My goal as a provider is to encourage patients to make better choices and offer options to improve their health status before medical interventions are needed.”
In 2018, Heggelund enrolled in UL Lafayette’s online MSN degree program to position herself to fill the need for primary care, especially in rural areas.
She says UL Lafayette was a natural choice as her alma mater and for the quality of its nursing programs.
“I know firsthand that UL Lafayette provides a quality education,” Heggelund says. “The nursing program has an amazing reputation and I love our University. Returning for my master’s degree felt like coming home.”
The difference for Heggelund was that instead of attending courses on UL Lafayette’s oak-shaded campus, she’d be completing her coursework online. She says although it was an adjustment, it was the best option for her.
“With younger children at home, the online program provided my best opportunity for success,” Heggelund says. “It required endless discipline and motivation; I created a schedule for studying and completing assignments around my family life and full-time job. I knew that staying on task and maintaining a balance between family-work-school was the only way to be successful.”
Working full-time, managing graduate coursework, and keeping up with four children, including two pre-teens, is no small task. But when Heggelund learned about the Graduate Certificate in Cardiovascular Nursing, she decided the opportunity was worth the extra challenge.
The graduate degree program is designed for advanced practice nurses or those enrolled in an MSN degree program. It was developed in partnership with Cardiovascular Institute of the South to fill a growing need for advanced practice nurses with specialized cardiovascular knowledge and experience.
Cardiovascular Institute of the South has supported the program by providing scholarships as well as its facilities and staff for precepting.
Heggelund enrolled in the six-month program in March 2020, simultaneously pursuing the specialized graduate certificate and her master’s degree.
“My background in cardiology nursing provided a foundation to build on and this was an excellent opportunity to advance my knowledge as I transition into a new role as a nurse practitioner,” Heggelund says. “Cardiovascular Institute of the South is world-renowned in their advances in cardiovascular medicine, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with them and to take part in the program. It was very challenging at times, but it was manageable, and I learned so much.”
Heggelund says in addition to expanding her knowledge of cardiovascular diagnosis and treatment plans, she was able to gain a new perspective on cardiovascular procedures.
“I was able to develop skills such as evaluating exercise and nuclear stress tests, echocardiograms, and advanced EKG. The cath lab rotation included observation of procedures such as coronary and peripheral angiograms, pacemaker placements, and minimally-invasive valve replacements,” Heggelund says. “As a nurse, we rarely get to observe these procedures firsthand. Each aspect of the CV course was another piece of the puzzle that lends to a greater comprehension of cardiovascular care.”
Heggelund earned her graduate certificate in August 2020 and her MSN in December 2020. She says she hopes to schedule boards in early 2021 to apply for an advanced practice license.
“There are so many options for advanced practice nurses,” she says. “It’s exciting to explore each new opportunity.”
Interested in opening new opportunities in nursing? The online Master of Science in Nursing and Graduate Certificate in Cardiovascular Nursing can expand your scope of practice and fill demand for specially trained advanced practice nurses. Request information about our programs today.