The First APRN Cardiac Clinic in Arkansas

El Dorado, Arkansas is located more than 100 miles south of the capital city, Little Rock. This rural town is fortunate to have a lifelong resident serve as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) providing cardiac care to residents. Angela Simmons, NP, APRN. describes the health care services she provides at El Dorado's Arkansas Heart Hospital Clinic as a labor of love.

Simmons passion for cardiac care began at the impressionable age of 12 while volunteering as a candy striper at the local hospital. Upon receiving her BSN, she began working in the ICU of the local hospital. It was there she formed a professional relationship with Bruce Murphy MD, PhD, FACC, an established cardiologist from Little Rock, who provided coverage to her hometown.

Over the next decade various cardiology groups would rotate and provide intermittent cardiology coverage to the local hospital. Simmons was the cardiology nurse who orchestrated coverage to patients. Local physicians relied on her to provide assistance for their patients who were admitted for cardiac complaints during the times cardiologists were unavailable. Simmons also facilitated transferring patients to the appropriate hospitals in Little Rock.

At this time, Simmons began pursuing a degree as an APRN to provide consistent cardiac care to her local community. After obtaining her APRN and with the encouragement and support of local physicians, Simmons opened her own practice.

In 2009, Simmons started the first APRN owned and operated health care clinic through a collaborative agreement with Ked Davis, MD, and Dr. Murphy. This was the first APRN cardiology practice of its kind in Arkansas. Simmons purchased the necessary equipment including for nuclear stress testing and head up tilt table testing. She contracted echocardiogram and carotid ultrasound services. Her staff included a receptionist, nurses and an accountant. A paid physician provided coverage during stress testing. Simmons was on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for the clinic, but as an NP her reimbursement was significantly less than afforded physicians.

In 2013, Angela merged her extensive client practice with Arkansas Heart Hospital, which is under the leadership and management of Dr. Murphy. With Dr. Murphy's vision and support of APRN's in the state, Simmons was able to continue her love of cardiology by providing excellent care to her community.

The focus of her practice is committed to enhancing cardiovascular health in South Arkansas. Valuing a strong network among nurses and physicians, she rallied 35 NPs to form the South Arkansas Nurse Practitioner Association in 2014. Simmons served as co-founder and was very instrumental in establishing the statewide Arkansas Nurse Practitioner Association in 2014 where she serves as its current president.

Simmons was awarded the State of Excellence Award for Arkansas in 2016 by American Association of Nurse Practitioners at their annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. Considered a trail blazer for cardiac care in a primarily rural state, she was a featured speaker at ACC's Arkansas Chapter in October 2016.

For other nurses interested in starting their own health care clinics, Simmons says to understand that owning your own practice takes dedication and a lot of sacrifice. She credits her own success from tremendous support from local physicians, NPs and residents of El Dorado and surrounding communities.

Angela Simmons, NP, APRN, is a lifelong resident of El Dorado, Arkansas. She received her bachelor of science in nursing from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas in 1993. In 2006, she received her family nurse practitioner degree from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas.