Nurses of Note 2023: The Acute Neurovascular Advanced Practitioner
PerfectServe’s Nurses of Note awards program honors nurses who deserve recognition for their service, sacrifice, and devotion to their patients and colleagues. For the third year of the Nurses of Note program, PerfectServe is highlighting nurses who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty and whose resilience, creativity, and determination inspire others to do the same.
These honorees are outstanding representatives from the field of nursing, and the stories they share help paint a picture of the difference they make for their patients and communities every single day. Of the 200-plus winners from this year’s program, we’ve selected a handful to engage with more in-depth profiles that will be published throughout the year. These are their stories.
The Acute Neurovascular Advanced Practitioner: Kathleen Furlong, NP | Mission Viejo, CA
There are many nurses who specialize in certain areas of medicine. For Kathleen Furlong, it’s neurocognitive memory care. Because September is World Alzheimer’s Month, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to learn more about a nurse like Kathleen and what she does every day, from memory care to treating patients with other brain health conditions.
Kathleen has provided care in many departments and specialties, including cardiothoracic surgery, heart failure, and adult primary care. An Acute Neurovascular Advanced Practitioner since 2011, she focused on both cardiology and neurology care before moving to the Neurology, Concussion and Memory Clinic at Mission Heritage Medical Group (MHMG), a part of the Providence Health System.
In her role, she treats patients who need acute stroke care and are dealing with neurocognitive disorders, dementia, and other brain health challenges. This includes clinical memory assessments, brain imaging and diagnostics, and other related medical care. For Kathleen, her day-to-day role includes full patient care of new and existing patients and follow-ups from general neurology. She cares for patients with headache and neurocognitive disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, movement disorders, mood disorders, and so much more. She also prioritizes community outreach and education to give caregivers and other community members resources and education about memory care and health.
Kathleen was drawn to this type of patient care because of her true passion for brain health and building greater awareness. She wants every patient to learn to live in a self-reliant way that gives them independence and helps prevent disease. She is passionate about teaching brain health education, including using healthy foods and medicine, living a life of balance, and the importance of “just breathing” and relaxing when needed. This is evident in her diagnostic plan of care: she teaches medication management, lifestyle modification, the importance of diet and stress reduction, and even provides emotional and psychosocial support and referrals for patients who need it.
Kathleen is an advocate for community education and has a professional relationship with many community support resources, including caregiver resource centers, Alzheimer’s Orange County (CA), the Council on Aging, and many Community Stroke/Parkinson’s support groups. She is passionate about these relationships because she says there is limited time to provide patient and caregiver support to dementia patients in the office. By providing adjunct continuity of care and maintaining routine communication with these other organizations, she can take meaningful steps to influence patient and caregiver outcomes outside of her clinic.
Alongside these partnerships and professional relationships, Kathleen is an active member of the MHMG Community Outreach and Advocacy Committee and the St. Joseph Heritage Employee Partner Program. She is the Alzheimer’s Orange County 2016 Professional Caregiver award winner, is an International Profession Volunteer for Outreach to the World (Kenya), and is a Global Health Organization Board member. To say her reach is broad is an understatement!
We asked Kathleen what she thinks everybody should know about nurses who care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. She stressed that these nurses are truly compassionate and patient caregivers to both patients and their families. She makes it a goal to have a “therapeutic relationship” with patients and families to help mitigate the very understandable anxiety they face. Her motto? “Go where the patient is.”
For Kathleen, celebrating World Alzheimer’s Month is key to social awareness. She wants nurses and patients alike to be empowered by brain health education. She is an advocate for—and encourages others to be part of—a support system for caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and other brain health disorders. People like Kathleen remind us of the outsize impact nurses have, both in patient care settings and in settings outside of the hospital. Her efforts with direct patient care, community education, and extended partnership and support for people affected by Alzheimer’s are ample proof that Kathleen is a deserving Nurse of Note!
Kathleen, we’re honored to celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month by highlighting the incredible support you provide to patients, their families, and your surrounding community. Your advocacy for brain health and lifestyle education are commendable. Thank you for sharing your story and for embodying what it means to be a Nurse of Note!
To learn more about Kathleen’s life as a nurse, we asked her a few additional questions to get to know her better.
Why did you choose to become a nurse?
My parents—a doctor and a nurse—introduced me to healthcare. I started out as a candy striper and made my way through nursing school. I’ve been a Nurse Practitioner on both coasts. I am empowered by being an advocate for others’ health and education.
What is the biggest lesson you learned while serving as a nurse throughout the pandemic?
I learned that, as a nurse, I had to get into the action to be a part of the solution. I had to conquer my own fears to be a better caregiver. From working in our COVID-19 testing clinics to volunteering at community vaccination sites, it was all a new experience; I learned something every day. I also learned that social isolation increased mood disorders and increased decline in cognitive function and dementia for my patients.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self about working in the healthcare industry?
It is so important to take care of yourself mentally and to advocate for yourself financially. Make sure you are getting the support you need, and know your worth as a nurse! It’s not for the weak!
What do you do to relax after a stressful day?
It’s so important to “play.” I like to be in nature, go for walks on the beach, and get exercise in as many “fun” forms as possible, like dancing!
What changes would you like to see in the nursing field of the future?
I’d like to see a bigger promotion of preventative health education for nurses. Nurses need to be educated on preventative care so they can teach their patients about lifestyle choices such as diet, stress management, and self care.
If you had to pick one song that describes you as a nurse, what would it be?
I’d pick Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” every time!
Make sure to follow our blog as we publish profiles about more of our amazing Nurses of Note honorees throughout the year! For more about Nurses of Note 2023, check out the full list of winners.