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.”

An autographed, heart-shaped pillow given to patients in Joy Coles' unit.
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 Coles, APRN, and Andrew Kolodziej, MD, with a patient.
“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 Coles, APRN, with a patient.
“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 Coles, APRN, talks with a colleague.
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 Coles, APRN, talks with a colleague.
“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 Coles, APRN, lecturing
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 Coles, APRN, at the lectern
“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 three—and 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 Coles, APRN
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.