Director of cardiovascular services is all heart
Sharmila Ward, director of cardiovascular services, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center
"In our cath lab and valve clinic, we have one little phrase we say to patients: 'Here, we fix broken hearts.' They feel a little better when you kid around with them, so that’s what we tell them," says Sharmila Ward, director of cardiovascular services for Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.
The comforting saying is just one of many ways that Palm Beach Gardens staff members do their utmost to help ensure a positive experience for their patients.
Great patient care is one of the reasons Sharmila has had a long tenure with the hospital. During her 16 years there, Sharmila first served as an admissions clerk and then as a unit secretary in the ER while she studied nursing. Following graduation, she spent several years in the intensive care unit (ICU) and cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU), and has spent the past decade in the cardiac catheterization lab.
Working at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center—and in cardiac care especially—is a long-standing family affair.
"I come from a family with a long history of bad cardiac health. My grandfather had bypass surgery and my cousin, at age 36, had bypass surgery. It's also part of my culture—Indian people have bad coronary artery disease, so that's always been interesting to me," says Sharmila. "My mom works at this hospital, too. She’s been here for 26 years. Some of the physicians and cardiac surgeons have known me since I was 12 years old. When you grow up in and around this hospital, cardiac is in your blood. That’s all I've ever known."
Excellence in cardiac care
Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center is known throughout the community as the place to go for cardiac care.
"When locals are asked, they’ll say, 'Oh, Gardens?—the heart place, the heart hospital.' This is where you go for the heart. The community knows us as the facility for hearts," says Sharmila.
The reputation that resonates from the inside out has been earned by delivering quality care with compassion and attention.
"In the cath lab, we’re a family and a team. It's a group of people that watches out for each other and helps each other. I see it in our patients' reactions. The staff has a great way of talking to them and keeping them calm," says Sharmila. "The rooms have overwhelming amounts of equipment, so we try to keep it lighthearted, so the patients are relaxed."
Sharmila is both an administrator for her department, but also an active care provider. These functions are two different ways to ensure a patient is well cared for, and she loves both roles.
"I never thought I'd be the administrative type because I love patient care, but it doesn't feel any different—just a little more paperwork. I’m not the type of administrator who sits in an office. I wear scrubs. I do cases and take care of patients with the staff," she says.
Strong physician relationships are essential for a hospital's success, and building such relationships has come naturally to Sharmila.
"The doctors know that if there's a problem they can call me and I'll be there. My cellphone is on 24/7 for them. They're as much our customers as the patients are," she says. "I'm an open-door administrator. Staff knows they can call me, even on a Sunday afternoon. I believe that happy staff means happy patients, and happy patients mean happy physicians, and that's a doubly happy environment."