Maureen Gartner, a Parkinson’s Nurse Who Always Answers the Call

Woman poses for photo

Maureen Gartner, RN, M.Ed., takes a break at the Gardner Center offices on the UC Academic Health Center campus. Photo by Cindy Starr / Mayfield Clinic.

Maureen Gartner, RN, M.Ed, likes to joke about the number of different hats she wears. Someday, she says, she is going to get a box of them and set them by her desk at the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

Indeed, it would be quite a collection for the nurse coordinator. First and foremost there is the nursing hat, which she wears at all times, even when walking on the beach while vacationing in Florida. “This is Maureen,” she said, in one unforgettable moment, taking a call from the wife of a patient in Cincinnati. “Heavens no, of course you’re not bothering me! What can I do?”

Then there is the research hat, which Ms. Gartner wears while serving as research coordinator for multiple clinical trials and for laboratory research studies involving balance and freezing disorders. There is another hat she wears while speaking at support group meetings and symposia; yet another in her role as the Information and Referral Nurse for Tri-State Parkinson’s Wellness, our regional chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA); and yet another as she segues into the role of student earning a nurse practitioner’s degree – projected for June 2013 — at the UC College of Nursing.

Then, in something of a surprise, Ms. Gartner donned the hat of media celebrity during a recent television interview about Parkinson’s disease on Fox 19 – WXIX. She really wants you to know about that!

But if Maureen Gartner has many hats, she has a hundred times as many friends in the extended family that makes up the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana region’s Parkinson’s community.

“Maureen has become a critical member of our group, not only for her outstanding performance as research coordinator and information and referral nurse for the APDA, but also, most importantly, for her dedication to patient care,” said Fredy J. Revilla, Director of the Gardner Center and Professor of Neurology at UC. “She has always attended promptly to patient needs, even in situations where a home visit or traveling out of town was required.”

“Maureen has proven resourceful and indispensable to our group’s commitment to improving the lives of people with a variety of movement disorders,” added Alberto Espay, MD, a Gardner Center specialist and Associate Professor of Neurology. She has always stretched beyond the line of duty to make every one of our patients special.”

Ms. Gartner, who earned her nursing degree 33 years ago, has worked in several nursing capacities and was honored with a prestigious Florence Nightingale Award in 1995. Prior to joining the Gardner Center, she worked as a neurosurgical nurse clinician at the Mayfield Clinic and as the nurse coordinator for hemophilia at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Equally important, she was the primary caregiver for her mother, who lived for six and a half years after suffering a disabling stroke.

“I think that experience made me a better nurse,” Ms. Gartner said. “Several years ago, while I was working in neurosurgery, a woman whose husband had suffered a stroke came back with him for a follow-up appointment. She was talking about all the difficulties, and I finally said to her, ‘I want to know how you are.’ And she burst into tears. These are the things that matter to people.”

At the Gardner Center Ms. Gartner works closely with surgical patients who have undergone deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. She gives her cell phone number to every family whose loved one has undergone surgery and is going through the process of fine-tuning the stimulator programming. (After the stimulator has been surgically implanted, it is adjusted over a period of three to six months so that a patient’s usual symptoms are minimized. Medications are also adjusted at the same time.)

Ms. Gartner is especially excited about her role as the APDA chapter’s information and referral nurse. The chapter is now based in the Stetson Building, across from the Gardner Center’s offices, on the Academic Health Center campus. “I think the partnership is going to be a great blend for growth,” she said. “It provides us with resources for our patients, and it places the ADPA site at the best location for Parkinson’s care.”

The Gardner Center’s fellowship-trained specialists oversee the care of approximately 3,600 patients.

The Gardner Center strives to be a “one-stop-shop,” Ms. Gartner said, but it isn’t possible to have everything in-house. “So we’re really working hard to define a good network of providers for patients, such as physical therapists who know about Parkinson’s. And we’re doing the same with occupational therapy. Dr. Sid Khosla and his team [in the Neurosensory Disorders Center] are awesome. We’re working with the APDA to hire a part-time social worker.

“Our goal at the center is to provide a network of excellent services to the Parkinson’s community, and we have to do that north, south, east and west,” she continued. “We want to make it convenient for the patient, while also addressing insurance issues. We work hard to find a good physical therapist for someone in Mason, for example, or a homecare agency that can provide a social work consult in Erlanger.”

At the same time, Ms. Gartner reassures patients that the Gardner Center is wholly committed to their well-being. “We are all united in that we care for our patients and we would go to the end of the earth for them,” she said. “I’m a spiritual person, and I’m not embarrassed to say that I really pray for my patients. I pray that they improve or that they have the best life they can have.

“And I think that’s what’s so exciting about the Gardner Center and our partnership with the ADPA: we’re absolutely committed to the person with PD. We believe that we can make their life better, and we believe that we can find a cure. And I think patients feel that energy from us.”

— Cindy Starr

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