Staff Spotlight: Heather Forrest
Stroke Coordinator Heather Forrest has the complicated task of working across disciplines to maintain Duke University Hospital’s status as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. In her Staff Spotlight interview, Forrest talks to us about how each of her three degrees influence this work. She also discusses the challenges and joys of the position as well as her loves of playing piano, reading, and pilates outside of work.
What are your responsibilities as a stroke coordinator? What does your average work day look like?
This is definitely a loaded question for any stroke coordinator! I would say my main responsibility is to maintain DUH’s status as a Comprehensive Stroke Center and to facilitate collaboration across multiple service lines and multiple disciplines to ensure our compliance with the Joint Commission standards. I don’t really have an “average” work day, but the bulk of my time is spent interfacing with others to achieve this compliance.
You have degrees in both nursing and community education. How did you decide on these fields? What brought you to Duke in particular?
My initial degree in community health education focused a lot on public health and program planning, with which I worked at a county-wide non-profit organization. After a couple of years, I wanted to be back in a more clinical setting (I had worked at a small community hospital during college) and went back to nursing school. With that degree, my career path brought me to North Carolina and ultimately to Duke, as I found myself caring for stroke patients at the bedside and then progressing to a stroke coordinator role at a Primary Stroke Center and then to a Comprehensive Stroke Center.
You also recently earned completed Duke’s Master of Management in Clinical Informatics degree. What was the most valuable part of this program? How does the knowledge you gained from this degree help your current work?
The skill set I gained from the MMCi program is incredibly applicable to the role of a stroke coordinator. While the emphasis of the degree was on clinical informatics, a lot of the course work also focused on business strategies, organizational development, and technological solutions for problems/needs within the healthcare environment.
It may seem odd, but the most valuable part of the program to me was learning my Myers-Briggs personality type. We spent an entire class reviewing our own type and how it interacts with those of our team members; and it truly helped me to understand my own actions/reactions and those of the people I interact with on a daily basis.
What do you enjoy most about your job? What’s the hardest part of your work?
My favorite part of my job is interfacing with all of the different departments and different disciplines. We have a phenomenal Stroke Committee that has great representation and support from many areas around the hospital.
Ironically, this is probably also the hardest part of my job. While everyone is great to work with, it can be tricky to keep everyone moving in the same direction at all times.
What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
Reading is definitely my go-to activity for decompressing. I also enjoy playing the piano and squeezing in a yoga or Pilates class when I can.
Forrest poses with her grandmother, a stroke survivor. "She had a massive stroke in January of 2014 and has recovered everything but her speech. I’m actually really glad that I could find this one," Forrest writes.