From the Heart, for the Heart

“A patient comes in and they’re essentially at the end of their heart failure. They’ve gone to other hospitals and no help is available for them. To see them to come into UK HealthCare, to qualify for a heart, and then to see those families after transplant, to see them return to their loved ones—I love doing it.”

A large, red, plush heart with an anatomical heart printed in the front is signed in sharpie by members of the patient's care team at the hospital.
Patients receive a plush heart with handwritten messages when they leave Joy’s unit.

Working with advanced heart failure patients at UK HealthCare’s Gill Heart & Vascular Institute is the cumulation of decades of interest and hard work for nurse practitioner Joy Coles. A tragedy when she was a teenager pushed her toward cardiovascular medicine: her older brother suffered a massive heart attack and passed away at the age of 27.

Joy smiles down at a patient in a hospital bed.
“Patients are active participants in their care. It's an honor and a privilege to work with them.”

“It thrust me into a passion to find out more about literally what makes the heart tick, and some of the ways in which we can prevent heart attacks,” she said. “My own personal experience with my brother showed what happens when the focus is not on prevention.”

Joy listens to her patient's heart with her stethoscope.
“Choosing nursing was one of the best decisions that I've ever made, truly.”

A cardiovascular ICU nurse for five years, Joy is now a nurse practitioner in the same unit, caring for patients as part of an interdisciplinary team of nurses and physicians. That interdisciplinary approach involves dieticians, nutritional specialists, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, and even specialized nurses who help patients transition from the hospital back to their lives.

Joy smiles from behind a work station as someone talks to her.
UK’s multidisciplinary approach allows Joy and her coworkers to care for more than just their patients’ hearts.

“When patients come to UK HealthCare, they get the full package. They get comprehensive care so all of their needs are met. We care not just about their diagnosis, their prognosis and their treatment trajectory, but that the patient can return, if possible, to an improved quality of life.”

Joy smiles at another nurse in a hall at UK HealthCare.
“Our goal is to help them get back to a good quality of life. It's a joy, I love doing it.”

Joy’s love for her job is palpable. It overflows when you talk to her, and it carries her through the hard days of what can be an intense, stressful job. That passion drove her to share her expertise and knowledge with the next generation of healthcare providers at the UK College of Nursing, where she works as an assistant professor.

Joy is lecturing a room full of students with a presentation on the projector screen behind her.
The “profound impact” of Joy’s own professors inspired her to go into teaching.

“Our next generation of nurses and physicians that are coming down the pipeline, they’re special people. They’re bright, they’re engaged and they’re the future. And I get to be a part of facilitating their learning and sharing my passion.”

Joy smiles while working on her desktop computer.
“I love sharing that passion with other soon-to-be nurses and to see the light come on.”

Joy’s days start early and go late. She balances being a nurse practitioner, an assistant professor, a wife, and a mother of threeand she wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s long hours, but I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t trade it. There’s no greater joy.”

Joy smiles brightly while wearing her white nurse practitioner's coat in a lecture hall.
Joy’s journey to her current role has been “a long time coming.”

Learn more about the work done by nurse practitioners like Joy at UK HealthCare’s Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

Suzanne holds and kisses her happy dog, Teddy.Courtney smiles as she holds Jade, who is also smiling.