A spotlight On The YMCA’s Nurse, Wendy King – In Honor Of Heart Health Month

When much of the world stopped last March due to COVID-19, Wendy King got started.  Wendy, a registered nurse working at the YMCA, knew exactly how much of a negative impact social distancing and being quarantined would have on the emotional and physical well-being of many of the elderly patients that she works with.  With the Y closed for 3 months, she knew she had to act and many in the community are thankful that she did.  Wendy began making consistent phone calls and writing personalized letters to her patients in an attempt to make sure they continued to have social connections.  Whether answering health-related questions, helping them coordinate doctor visits, or just listening to a population with much concern about a growing pandemic; Wendy was always willing to lend her knowledge and an empathetic ear to those in need.  Although Wendy’s actions were simple by definition, the difference that those actions made in the lives of so many were enormous.  For the attention Wendy gave to so many it’s only fair to give her some.

Wendy is a Registered Nurse that oversees the Cardiac Maintenance Program at the YMCA of Pulaski County.   She worked as a nursing assistant at a long-term facility while attending college. Her college major at that time was in Special Education/Early Childhood Education. For as long as she could remember, she wanted to be a teacher. “I never thought about being a nurse. While working as a nursing assistant, I discovered that I loved what I was doing and was good at it. My coworkers, including the nurses and my Mom, suggested that I pursue a career in nursing. I graduated in 1990 and became an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse).”  Her first nursing job was working at Urgent Care in Rhode Island. A year later, she moved to Denver, Colorado.  After living in Colorado for a couple of years, she returned to college. She obtained her Associate’s of Science in Nursing in December 1996. In January of 1997, she took and passed her nursing boards which gave her the title of RN (Registered Nurse). Her education didn’t stop there. She returned to school under the encouragement of her family to earn a Bachelorette of Nursing Science. She graduated in December, 1999. She has worked in many different areas of nursing in 30 years, including orthopedics, telemetry, surgery, cardiac critical care, and oncology.

Currently, Wendy is utilizing the wealth of knowledge and experience she has accumulated over her nursing career to help members of the YMCA obtain and maintain good heart health.  The Cardiac Maintenance Program is geared toward both people with heart-related issues (heart attacks, cardiac surgery, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure) as well as individuals that want to proactively prevent heart-related issues and maintain heart health.  Anyone and everyone that wants to participate in the program can have their blood pressure, pulse, oxygen saturation levels checked before and/or after exercising.  Wendy also provides face-to-face health consultation.  Wendy is passionate about increasing awareness of cardiac-related conditions and welcomed the idea of an interview….

What you need to know about Heart Health: Interview with Wendy King

What are some risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular problems? 

“A person’s risk increases as they age, especially after the age of 65. Men have been found to have a higher incidence of heart-related issues than women. Smoking, high cholesterol, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle can also put you at higher risk of cardiovascular disease. High levels of stress and excessive consumption of alcohol are other risk factors that people often overlook.”

What are some warning signs that may indicate heart-related issues? 

“Chest pain is an indication of heart health issues. People with chest pain are advised to seek emergency medical care by dialing 911 or going to the nearest ER. Unexplained dizziness while sitting down or walking can be an early symptom of heart disease. Arm pain, especially on the left side, and pain in the neck or jaw can be a sign of heart issues. Unexplained fatigue, excessive sweating, swollen legs, and feet may also be warning signs.”

What are some benefits of having and maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system? 

“Benefits of having a healthy cardiovascular health are lower blood pressure, improved blood flow, lower cholesterol as well as a decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.”

Over your career, what have you observed to be interventions that have been most helpful with improving heart health?

“First and foremost the best thing you can do for your patients, in my opinion, is to listen to them. Sometimes they need someone to talk to about their health issues, fears, and concerns.”

In your experience as a nurse, what do you think prevents people from engaging in healthy habits for heart care? 

I think the biggest obstacle people face with trying to live a healthy lifestyle is time and money. Most people have busy lives and have trouble finding time to engage in physical activities. Eating healthy foods can require more preparation compared to driving to a fast-food restaurant, making it more inconvenient. Healthy meals usually cost more than eating unhealthy foods.

Do you have any other easy advice for people who are trying to maintain heart health? 

I recommend people start out small. People usually think they have to do at least 30 minutes of exercising to start. This is not true. They can start out doing 5 minutes on an exercise bike or walking/jogging and increase their minutes in increments of 5 minutes each week until they meet their personal goal. The same thing applies to their diet. People are more successful if they take small steps with starting an exercise program or changing their diets. I encourage people to try and increase their water intake while decreasing their consumption of alcohol, coffee, or soda.

Ronnie Powers a long time member and supporter of the YMCA, had this to say about Wendy King and the service she provides:

“Wendy provides comfort and assurance to us every day at Y.  She is dependable, knowledgeable, professional, and dedicated.  She genuinely seems to enjoy helping us with any of our medical needs and/or health-related questions.  We are lucky to have such a kind and supportive nurse at our YMCA”.

You can visit Wendy at the YMCA Monday – Thursday from 8:00 am – 12:00 pm.

Photo: Wendy King, Nurse at the YMCA