As a nurse and program coordinator in the heart transplant clinic at Children’s National Hospital, Colleen Iler helps care for patients and families before, during and after complicated pediatric heart transplants. “I spend a lot of time talking to patients,” she says. “I know their favorite foods and their pets’ names, and they know mine.”
Nurturing relationships is an important part of her job. “Heart transplants are scary,” she says. “Even just talking about it can be overwhelming. Taking time to get to know families creates trust.” Care in the clinic includes shepherding patients through visits with doctors, social workers, psychologists, dieticians and pharmacists and sometimes, palliative care.
Colleen loves being there to applaud her patients’ victories. She recently helped a 5-year-old celebrate his “heart-iversary.” She has helped teen patients prepare to travel the world years after successful transplants. In one case, she cheered on a patient long-distance as he competed and medaled in the World Transplant Games.
Another thing Colleen does is constantly improve her skills. She is working toward her Doctorate of Nursing Practice. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she volunteered at our testing site, at our vaccine clinics and continues to help her patients and families navigate how to stay safe and healthy. “I love learning and giving my best to my patients. They’re super brave and tough kids,” says Colleen, who knows a lot about the power of kindness. “Keeping them smiling is why I get up every day.”
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