Researching the way to a healthy heart

Image: Rachael Dekker, Cardiovascular Research Coordinator at Peninsula Health

Rachael Dekker is a Registered Nurse with a background in cardiac and intensive care nursing. She is also a basic and advanced life support educator. In 2013, Rachael joined Peninsula Health as a casual Registered Nurse working mainly in the Intensive Care Unit, showcasing an array of skills and an avid interest in cardiac care. Rachael went on to become a passionate clinical educator and supported the Critical Care post graduate students in Cardiology.

When the opportunity to transition out of education and into research presented itself, Rachael couldn’t refuse. Now working as Peninsula Health’s Cardiovascular Research Coordinator, Rachael coordinates all research projects focused on improving heart health.

“I knew I would really love a role in research, and working closely with cardiologists,” says Rachael. “I have always had a keen interest in research, and the role was a stepping stone to move away from shift work and develop my research skills.”

“My day usually starts, depending on the studies that we’re undertaking, by looking at recruiting research participants. If a patient suits a particular study criteria, I approach them, have a chat and provide them with a consent form to see if they were interested in reading a bit more.”

“I also make sure all of our participants in the study are meeting their follow-up targets. This is usually done via a phone call or a face-to-face consultation, depending on what the study requirements are and what investigations they need to have done.”

Peninsula Health is participating in a study on ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), which will investigate patients who experience a type of heart attack that is more serious and has a greater risk of serious complications and death. Patients who have had a STEMI will be offered a drug vs placebo treatment following their cardiac intervention.

“What we’re hoping to find is administering this particular drug may reduce their risk of having another heart attack,” says Rachael. “Patients are at a higher risk of having a secondary heart attack within 12 months of their first.”

“The study aims to reduce the risks of having another heart attack and the risk of any other cardiac complications such as death and stroke, whilst also reducing their long term complications moving forward.”

“If we can reduce a patient’s cardiovascular risk and their cardiovascular risk factors, then essentially we keep them out of hospital and we keep them healthy.”

Peninsula Health has a long-standing commitment to cardiac research and in the past has played a role in the development of heart failure medication which has reduced hospital admission rates and improved patient outcomes 

“Research as a whole is well set up at Peninsula Health. We’re always there to bounce things off each other because the ethics and the way studies are set up are the same in all departments.”

“The biggest thing I enjoy about my role is that I can make it my own, I can work really closely with our cardiologists, radiographers and the whole cardiology team. You need the team involved, otherwise you can’t do good research.”