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Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center
Putting Heart Disease at Ease
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW/AW) Weston A. Mohr
Monday, September 17, 2018A team of dedicated Lovell Federal Health Care Center nurses hopes a new Heart Failure Toolkit will help patients with heart failure live life to the fullest.
The team recently held a resource fair at the North Chicago hospital to kick off the FHCC’s heart failure initiative. While the first fair was targeted at providers who care for patients with heart failure, Sept. 26 will be a day for patients themselves to get the help they need in person.
From 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at the main entrance the FHCC Ambulatory Care Center, Bldg. 133EF, nurses will man displays and answer questions, as well as distribute the new Heart Failure Toolkit to patients and their caregivers.
Denise Remo-Nunez, a registered nurse at the facility and member of the Heart Failure Core Group, coordinated the Aug. 22 resource fair for FHCC providers.
“Unfortunately, there are no clear answers when it comes to heart failure,” Remo-Nunez said. “Health care providers can address medication management, dietitians can address nutrition changes needed, and we as nurses can address with them about lifestyle education; but the biggest variable is the patient's understanding and compliance.”
Providers received information on medical and surgical interventions for heart failure at the Aug. event. There also were stations for resources available at FHCC; including the MOVE! weight-management program, nutrition, cardiology, home telehealth, smoking cessation and hospice/palliative care. Copies of the new heart failure toolkit were available, as well.
The toolkit includes an informational booklet and a stoplight refrigerator magnet that helps patients determine when to go to the ER and when to manage their symptoms at home. The toolkit also includes instructions on how to document patient education and a template of the discharge education letter to mail to the patient in the event they cannot be contacted.
“Of patients who get admitted for heart failure, 50 percent of people get readmitted within six months,” Remo-Nunez said. “Once and for all, we wanted to close the revolving door on these readmissions.”
Remo-Nunez said the heart failure core group is made up of mostly nurses. “As nurses, our strength is in patient education,” she added. “If patients understand why they are on multiple medications, then hopefully, they will be more compliant with them, and therefore, keep flare-ups at bay.”
In many cases, the Department of Veterans Affairs spends tens of thousands of dollars annually per patient hospitalization to manage heart failure, according to Remo-Nunez.
“We need to be better stewards of the taxpayer’s money and improve the quality of life of these patients,” Remo-Nunez said. “The more hospitalized they are means more exposure to infections and more medications they have to take, therefore more side effects they are risking.”
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It takes the lives of about 610,000 Americans annually, or about one out of every four deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Heart disease can happen to anyone, but the group at FHCC is doing its best to educate providers and patients on the risks with the hope that more people will be spared permanent damage and ultimately more lives will be saved.
For more information, email the Heart Failure Core Group: FHCCLovellHeartFailureGroup@va.gov