February is heart disease awareness month. During the month, health organizations across the country encourage Americans to make small changes that can have a large impact. For example, people are encouraged to use spices instead of salt, school teachers are encouraged to include more physical activity in students’ schedules and medical professionals are reminded to make heart education a part of their communication with patients. According to the Center for Disease Control, roughly 25 percent of all deaths — more than 600,000 annually in the United States — are caused by heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death for men and women. Coronary heart disease, which is a buildup of plaque in the arteries, accounts for 370,000 deaths, representing more than half of all heart disease fatalities. Even when you divide up the statistics by race, heart disease remains the top killer for most ethnicities, including black, white and hispanic populations. During the month of February, you will see people wearing red to spread awareness of heart disease. The Heart Foundation is even encouraging people to share photos of themselves wearing red to help spread the word! Nurses’ Roles in Heart Failure Disease Management The effective treatment of heart disease during every phase of the patient journey requires an adequate number of nurses with specialized skill sets. Specific competencies for nurses involved in the prevention of cardiovascular disease were defined by the American College of Cardiology and experts from cardiovascular nursing organizations in Cardiovascular Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice. These competencies include broad knowledge of psychology, nutrition, developmental theory, physiology, anatomy and pharmacology. Nurses are involved in every aspect of the long-term management of patients with chronic heart disease. From assessment and initial patient triage, to ongoing monitoring and in-patient management, discharge preparation, ongoing patient education and palliative care, the nursing profession is integral to the fight against heart disease. Early diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, close monitoring and collaboration with non-cardiology nurses in emergency departments and hospital wards with elderly patients are all helping to improve cardiovascular care. Patients recovering from heart attacks in hospitals, along with their families, are often provided with education on how to manage and prevent heart failure through self-care. Nurses are at the front lines of patient education, and patient outcomes are related to the effective communication of heart disease management. Studies indicate that cardiovascular patients’ ability to follow a program, adhere to medication regimens and alter their lifestyles to manage heart disease are all contingent on their grasping of information while hospitalized. To alleviate patients’ reduced capacity due to cognitive dysfunction and anxiety following heart failure, nurses who teach them heart failure disease management and self-care advice use a technique of asking the patient to repeat back what they have just learned in their own words. Nurse professionals working with patients who have cardiovascular disease also integrate cultural competency skills that include a sensitivity to health inequity and to the needs of diverse patient populations. Nurse leaders who develop positive group dynamics in nursing teams increase nurse retention as well as improve cardiovascular patient outcomes. Leadership in nursing involves transformational leadership styles that affect the ongoing development of healthcare delivery, and nurse educators who are innovative and collaborative utilize advanced education, clinical experience and soft skills . Become a Leader in the Nursing Industry Heart disease is a frightening problem, but with a Master of Science in Nursing from Spring Arbor University, you can be part of the solution. By earning your master’s degree in a nursing-related field, you will be an integral part of teams leading the fight against this deadly health problem. Contact Spring Arbor University to learn more about our online nursing programs.