Norton Children’s Heart Institute expands adult congenital team

Rebecca A. Smith, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, brings 12 years’ experience as a bedside nurse, the majority of time with cardiac patients. A social worker also is due to join the team.

Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, continues to expand its adult congenital heart disease program to meet the needs of children whose congenital heart conditions require ongoing care in adulthood.

Rebecca Smith, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, brings 12 years’ experience as a bedside nurse, the majority of the time with cardiac patients. Now a nurse practitioner, Rebecca will care for patients at Norton Children’s Hospital, Norton Hospital and the Novak Center for Children’s Health.

“Our patients have had cardiac and often other health issues their entire lives. I want their heart condition to be the smallest part of their lives it can be,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca joins Melissa L. Perrotta, M.D.; Walter L. Sobczyk, M.D.; Dana M. Fentress, MSN, APRN, FNP-C; and Cheryl Smith, R.N., BSN. A social worker also is due to join the team.

Rebecca’s addition reflects the growing number of children who survive into adulthood with congenital heart abnormalities. With advances in surgery, interventional procedures and medical management, more than 90% now grow up to be adults.

RELATED: Norton Children’s Heart Institute earns accreditation from the Adult Congenital Heart Association

“It used to be the majority of children wouldn’t survive into adulthood,” Rebecca said.

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Now, according to Rebecca, there are more adults than children with congenital heart abnormalities.

When nearing the end of their teenage years, congenital heart patients transition to the adult congenital heart disease team for their medical management. Their surgical and interventional needs are still met by pediatric specialists, who have expertise in congenital abnormalities.

“It’s such a unique population,” Rebecca said. “As a team, we want to optimize their health so they can pursue the things they want most in life, whether it be a career or having a family.”

Rebecca’s father was in the Air Force, and she moved around quite a bit as a child. She was born in Texas, spent her early childhood in New Jersey, and moved to Southern Indiana in elementary school.

Rebecca received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Evansville, Indiana, and her Master of Science in nursing education and nurse practitioner degrees at Bellarmine University in Louisville.

As a nurse, she has worked in intensive care units and with open heart surgery and ventricular assist device (VAD) patients. She also has worked as a VAD and congestive heart failure coordinator.

“I think the heart is incredibly fascinating,” Rebecca said. “Joining the adult congenital team has been an opportunity for me to explore another area in cardiology.”

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