Tanya Dwyer, director of the Chronic Disease Program at CCA, has always been a caregiver. However, it wasn’t until her early 20s that she discovered her love for nursing. At the time, she was certified as a nursing assistant and worked at a local nursing home.
Tanya didn’t feel fulfilled in her previous careers, but working at the nursing home helped her realize what she really wanted to do with her life. “I discovered I wanted to be able to do more to drive the care I was delivering to people,” Tanya says. “This was accelerated after I had my son at the age of 25. He inspired me to expand my capability to provide for him and be a good role model.”
Tanya enrolled in a nursing program when her son was six months old and got an internship monitoring patients’ vital signs. She was hired at the hospital where she interned after graduating, becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college. “That is where I found my passion for cardiology,” Tanya says. In addition to getting her Associate’s Degree in Nursing, Tanya also obtained a BSN, master’s, and post-master’s degree as an acute care gerontological advanced practice nurse in 2016.
As an RN, and later as an advanced practice nurse, Tanya has spent much of her time working with people who had advanced heart failure. One member in particular has stuck with Tanya over the years. The member was not engaging with the heart failure clinic and was only engaging with his primary care physician from time to time. However, he was frequently going to the emergency department (ED) and to the hospital. When Tanya met him, he was very guarded and untrusting of his providers. He had left the hospital against medical advice and was having trouble staying on his medication and nutrition plans.
Tanya worked with the member, his primary care physician, cardiologist, and CCA care partner for three months. Together, they removed more than 20 pounds of excess fluid to improve the member’s symptoms and quality of life. They also helped the member establish a primary goal of being able to visit his family out of state and to stay out of the hospital.
“We worked really hard to establish a trusting relationship with him and to balance his spiritual beliefs as an identified Muslim and his medical management needs so we could develop a plan that met his goals,” Tanya says. Over time, and with frequent collaboration with the member’s care team, he was able to successfully stay out of the hospital and visit his children and grandchildren, whom he had not seen in many years.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the entire healthcare system had to shift the way it delivered care. Tanya switched to doing virtual visits and helped operationalize the ability to do virtual care over a two-week period. “Despite the challenges we all faced during the pandemic, we were able to evolve quickly and continue to engage CCA members.
“No matter what happens—and even during a global pandemic—our goal at CCA will always be to deliver high-quality care and meet members where they are,” she says.