Q&A with Cyndi Belanger, RNC, Cardiac Rehab Nurse Coordinator

Cyndi Belanger, RN

Cyndi Belanger

What does a Cardiac Rehab Nurse Coordinator do?
As clinic coordinator, I oversee the cardiac rehab program with supervision from our medical director, Dr. Mark Belknap, and assistance from our outpatient clinical director of nursing, Karen Hansen.

I am responsible for the day-to-day operation of the department and making sure patients are exercising in a safe and friendly environment. I currently work with another RN, Dannette Tutor.

What does a patient in Cardiac Rehab at MMC experience?
Our primary focus is Phase 2 Cardiac Rehab, which is an outpatient exercise and risk factor modification program. We will see patients anywhere up to 4 ½ months, so we really get to see a change in our patients and how their lives are changing for the better.

We talk with patients about their medications and how they work, exercise and activity guidelines for home, how to change their diet and incorporate low-fat, low cholesterol, low sodium foods into eating. We talk about food labels and what to look for. If they are smokers, we talk about smoking cessation and tricks and tips to help them quit. We teach patients about high blood pressure and how the sodium in their diet affects their blood pressure, along with stress. We include stress management in our program and work with our social worker, on ways to incorporate stress relief into our patient’s lives.

Every patient we see that comes into Phase 2 Cardiac Rehab is placed on a monitor. We obtain their weight, and blood pressures at rest and with exercise to make sure the heart is working right with activity/exercise. We manage as many as 32 patients per day in Phase 2 and Phase 3 Cardiac Rehab.

When a patient comes to see you, what information should they bring?
We ask patients to bring in a copy of their medication list, comfy shoes for exercise, and a spouse/family member. The first session of cardiac rehab is a strictly get to know you session. We ask a lot of questions regarding your history, risk factors, and how things are going. We like to get to know our patients and their families. We want our patients to be open with us.

What should patients consider asking during their visit?
We encourage patients to write questions down that they have regarding medications or problems that they are currently experiencing. We are here to provide you and your family members/spouse with information on your health and heart problems.

What is the largest misconception you think patients have about Cardiac Rehab?
I guess the largest misconception is that we are “mean.” Many patient’s think they are coming in for a stress test, and we are far from that. Patients need to know that we start out with light level exercise, gradually increasing their exercise over a long period of time so they regain their strength and self-confidence. We are not here to hurt anyone. We are here to help.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give patients to improve their overall health?
Walk. Get those steps in every day. Don’t be a couch potato. If there is a magic bullet for anything it’s to be active.

If folks wanted additional health information about staying heart healthy, what are some available resources?
American Heart Association: heart.org