Episode 075 -- What is a Nurse Practitioner with Sarah Devine

Shortly after I got out of the hospital 3 years ago, a friend and former coworker sent me a link to an announcement from Valley Medical Center in Renton, WA, about the Stroke Club. Despite the commute from downtown Seattle, this would become the first support group I attended.

It's there that I met Sarah Devine, a neurology nurse practitioner who led the group. Since then, the group has grown, we've heard from a wide assortment of speakers, attendees have come and gone, and now Sarah is handing over the reins of the group while she prepares to take her own well deserved break.

Before she leaves, though, I wanted to sit down and talk with her more about her own path.


Sarah Devine HeadshotSarah Devine is an Adult Nurse Practitioner practicing at Valley Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute. Sarah sees Stroke and TIA patients in the hospital and clinic to confirm etiology, reduce risk for re-stroke and counsel patients on life style changes while helping through the multiple post stroke syndromes and symptoms that occur. She supports Stroke Survivor programs including encouraging Neuro Tai Chi programs; has run Valley’s Stroke Club for the past four years and sits on the Board of Tango Stride -Tango for stroke survivors.

Sarah received her MsN-ARNP in 2011 from Seattle Pacific University. After graduating, she worked in the post -hospital setting of Nursing Home rounding for several years -a perfect setting for learning geriatrics and internal medicine.

Her nursing career started in 1996, also in geriatrics, for the next 15 years she nursed in cardiology, chronic disease management and hospice in the all settings -hospitals, clinics, nursing facilities and patient homes. It was this broad view of nursing and health care that gave her adequate perspective to translate the confusing language of healthcare to the counties most vulnerable people.

She lives in Seattle with her husband where they are lucky enough to live in the same state as their four grown children


It's quite significant how our roles define how we see people. Prior to our chat, I never would have guessed Sarah had a liberal arts background, was the child of immigrants, or spent time as a cardiac nurse or hospice nurse. Granted, none of that seems out of character. But once we meet someone and put them in a certain bucket, that's how we seem them -- Nurse Practitioner and Stroke Clinician facilitating a support group and treating patients.

The lesson here on one level is, of course to recognize that the members of our care teams are individual people, too, with their own stories and paths. We may not see or hear those stories in our brief interactions, but the are there, and they shape the people we deal with.

Perhaps the more important lesson, though, is to understand how people see us -- others meet us and put us into a limited bucket with their own perception of what a stroke survivor is, what a care giver is, what an OT is, what a PT is, what a doctor is, etc.

When people make limited assumptions about us based on our role, it's easy to become offended that they're not seeing us as whole people with a history. But give them a break. We do it too. It's part of human nature. And recognize that that view goes both ways.


Sarah talked about helping survivors grieve for their previous life. Because this new life is different and can be a sharp break from our previous life. It's a concept I've heard before and I think we've talked about it in previous episodes.

But the new concept to me was when she talked about her cardiac patients feeling a sense of betrayal at their bodies. It's the betrayal we never expect to come.

As someone who has always been comfortable thinking in brain space, and who identifies as Ravenclaw, the stroke does feel like a betrayal. I was never an athlete. I could barely strum some notes on the mandolin, and I've never been the life of the party. But I have been a big reader, and I love thinking about things. I can get lost in daydreams and playing out all sorts of scenarios in my head. I can write and share concepts and stories. I've allied myself closely with my mind.

And then it betrayed me by, in part, dying.

Our lives can be turned upside down, not from the outside, but from the inside. And that makes that sense of betrayal that much more severe.

Hack of the Week

Sleep is free medicine. Living with a neurological condition means the brain works overtime and simply needs more sleep. Stroke survivors who find themselves struggling more than normal may simply have been over taxing the brain. The best way to combat that, and to overcome neuro-fatigue is simple to stay hydrated and take a nap.

There aren't a ton of advantages to having a stroke, but socially acceptable naps is one to embrace.


Where do we go from here?

Here is the latest episode of The Strokecast

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