Physician Assistant Andrea Pitzl is often the first face patients at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital Pediatric Heart Center see when they walk in the door.
She is also a consistent point of contact during a patient’s care journey; she helps conduct procedures like heart catheterizations while ensuring her young patients and their families have all the information they need to make knowledgeable decisions.
It’s no wonder that Pitzl often feels like a member of her patient’s families after weeks or months of working closely with them. We recently sat down with Pitzl to learn more about her passion for pediatric heart care.
I work in the center’s heart catheterization lab, which means that I see patients with congenital heart disease who require cardiac interventions, monitoring or imaging by accessing blood vessels connected to the heart. During this procedure, a small tube is inserted into an artery or vein, and then directed through blood vessels to the patient’s heart. The procedure is used to perform heart repairs or diagnose new heart conditions. Usually, I meet with the patients and families before the procedure to help them better understand the objective of a heart catheterization, and then assist the interventional cardiologist with the procedure. If they need to be admitted into the hospital that day, I’ll facilitate their inpatient stay.
The relationships I build with the patient and his or her family are very rewarding! I see firsthand the challenges these families face, and feel it is important to not only be a part of each child’s care team, but to also be an advocate for the patient and his or her family. We see many of our patients regularly, and they know they can rely on us and trust us as members of their team. As advance practice providers, we provide continuity of care, whether it’s meeting just before a procedure, caring for them while they’re in the hospital or a quick phone call to see how the child and family are doing.
I always draw heart diagrams for my patients and their families. I know that I am a visual learner, so I think it is helpful to explain the objective of the surgery or heart catheterization with a picture. I always encourage the patient and families to ask questions to also be sure they can repeat what we have discussed. If there is a question I do not know, I will be sure to go back and find the answer for the patient. I also can’t say enough positive things about our Child-Family Life care team! They are a wonderful resource for our patients.
Definitely. It’s most rewarding for me to help patients—and their families—fully understand their heart condition. Even if they’ve gone through a procedure or have heard a piece of information one hundred times, there is always a chance that I can teach them something new that day. I love being given that opportunity. In my experience, families are very appreciative when you can broaden their knowledge and understanding of their heart, and let them know that they have the best team behind them!