Nancy McCleary, RN, and her daughter Margaret “Meg” McCleary, RN, share the same last name – and a shared career in Cardiology at the MGH. Meg is clinical nurse manager for the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, where tests and procedures are performed to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease. Nancy works as a nurse and counselor in MGH Cardiac Rehabilitation, a program that addresses treatment and prevention of heart problems through diet, exercise and mindfulness tools. In recognition of February as Heart Month, MGH Hotline asked the mother-daughter duo to weigh in on what calls them to cardiac care.

How did you choose a career in Cardiology?

Nancy: Early in my career I worked on a cardiac surgical floor, and along with one of my friends on staff, we initiated an exercise and relaxation class for post-op patients getting ready for discharge. I fell in love with teaching and Cardiac Rehab was a natural next step. Essentially, we are coaches who help cardiac patients learn about their disease, what they can do to lower their risk and overall reach a higher level of wellness.

Meg: I started my nursing career in a Neurosciences ICU at Georgetown University Hospital. I enjoyed learning cardiovascular concepts more than Neurology where everything felt like a gray area – no pun intended. I eventually aspired to work in an area where I could develop more rapport with my patients and see them improve. I transitioned into procedural nursing by working in Interventional Radiology. When I moved back to Boston in 2013, I felt inclined to try Cardiology. The Cardiac Cath Lab married my interests in fast-paced ICU-level care, procedural nursing and Cardiology. My mother’s path and love for the MGH Heart Center certainly influenced my decision. Now I enjoy sharing patients with my mom and seeing her in the halls of MGH.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Nancy: The most gratifying part of my job is making close connections with my patients. I feel blessed to be at a job where I may have made a small difference in someone’s life and well-being. I also enjoy being part of the ever-changing landscape of Cardiology treatment.

Meg: As a staff nurse, I love working seamlessly as a team during emergencies, like a well-oiled machine. In my role as nurse manager, I enjoy witnessing our staff interacting with patients, giving them a sense of ease in an anxiety-provoking procedural environment. Moreover, I appreciate working on initiatives to improve patient care on a systems level, including redesigning our response to inpatient heart attacks and improving efficiency in our cath lab operations.

What is the most important thing you would share about taking care of your heart health?

Nancy: I believe making your own self-care a priority is the single most important way to take care of your heart health. We will then take the time to exercise, eat well and nourish our souls with meditation and mind/body practice. First though, we have to believe we are important enough to do this.

Meg: She stole my answer! The most important thing in optimizing heart health is reducing stress and inflammation. One can achieve this by nourishing the body and mind via a plant-based diet, consistent cardiovascular exercise, daily (“-ish”) meditation and adequate sleep. Easier said than done, but worth the effort!

Read more articles from the 02/22/19 Hotline issue.