By Laurie Dix
Cardiac Nursing is a specialty that deals with one of the major health issues in this country. According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Approximately 1.5 million heart attacks occur each year, nearly 80 million Americans suffer from heart conditions, and the number of cardiac patients continues to rise.
When you’re a cardiac nurse, you really feel like you’re making a difference because there are so many people experiencing heart and vascular system problems. We have wonderful therapies on the medical side and wonderful knowledge generation on the nursing side that can help us figure out how to really make a difference with what, for most people, will be a chronic illness.
One of the most intriguing things about working with patients with heart disease is that you’re blending an understanding of pathophysiology with knowledge of the way medications and therapies work. You’re also examining the reasons symptoms develop and then helping patients make necessary psychological and lifestyle adjustments in response.
You have to be inquisitive. You have to always be asking questions like: why is it this way; why is the patient having these symptoms; why is the treatment not working as well on this patient as on other patients? You have to be a strong advocate for patients. We want patients to trust us.
What we can do for patients now compared to what we used to be able to do has changed a lot. I don’t mean just medical therapies; I mean the knowledge that we have, much of it generated by nurses, about how we can help people live successfully with heart disease.
As cardiac nurses here at the new BMH Center for Cardiovascular Health, we help a wide variety of patients, including those with congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, unstable angina, myocardial infarctions, cardiac dysrhythmias, coronary artery disease, and several types of vascular problems. Our nurses work closely with our cardiologists, nurse practitioner, and vascular surgeon to help patients by providing a therapeutic environment and assessing their current risk of heart and vascular disease.
Patients with heart disease are often under tremendous physical and emotional stress and they often lack the coping skills needed to handle this stress. Our cardiac nurses have learned how to deal with different personalities, helping patients and family members find healthy ways to cope and take better care of themselves. Often, the motivational patient education provided by our cardiologists and nurses helps jump-start the long process of changing negative lifestyle habits and recovering after a life-threatening event like a heart attack.
The collaboration between our nurses, physicians, pharmacists, nutritionists, physical therapists, and even patients and their families has grown enormously. There’s a great sense of partnership and team spirit.
Laurie Dix, RN is the Office Manager for the BMH Center for Cardiovascular Health. She can be reached by calling 802-275-3699.