Kristine Ritenour, a pulmonary hypertension (PH) nurse coordinator at the Medical University of South Carolina, serves as the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) support group leader of the Lowcountry Charleston Support Group in Charleston, S.C.

Kristine started leading a support group because she believes it’s important to give patients a place to connect and learn more about the condition outside of their doctors’ visits. “I get to see patients outside of the office and see them connect with each other. I think it helps for them to see me as more of a person and not just the nurse that they see in clinic,” says Kristine.

She feels like she’s learning and helping patients with the spiritual side of their health, in addition to the medical treatment portion. “The questions that people ask help give me different perspectives on PH. The disease treatment definitely involves more than just a medication regimen. Leading the support group makes me feel like we’re treating the whole person and not just the disease,” says Kristine.

In the group’s most recent meeting, attendees learned about emergency preparedness, since South Carolina is prone to hurricanes. Kristine invited experts to talk about preparing for natural disasters, using special needs medical shelters and enrolling in customer assistance programs offered by electric companies. ”The timing was right since our area was affected by Hurricane Dorian earlier this month.”

Kristine encourages other medical professional support group leaders to use PHA’s support and guidance. She says, “PHA has been very supportive and gives so much support to the group leaders, including step-by-step instructions on how to plan the meeting. Other leaders are out there to help too! As medical professionals we have access to meeting rooms, medical experts, parking, catering, etc., that makes it easy to get the meetings up and running.”