HFSA Appoints First Nurse Leader: Q&A with Dr. Nancy Albert

ACNO leads organization for heart failure experts

On Oct. 6, 2020, Nancy M. Albert, PhD, CCNS, CHFN, CCRN, NE-BC, FAHA, FCCM, FHFSA, FAAN, assumed the presidency of the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA). Dr. Albert, who is the ACNO of Nursing Research and Innovation at Cleveland Clinic, is the first nurse to become president of the HFSA. She has been a member of the organization of heart failure providers, clinicians, basic and clinical scientists, educators, pharmacists and others since 1997, two years after it was formed, and will serve as president until the end of the HFSA’s 2021 Annual Scientific Meeting next September.

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Dr. Albert is well-suited to lead the organization. She is a Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Kaufman Center for Heart Failure within the Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute of Cleveland Clinic, a scientist who spearheads a program of research in heart failure, an executive leader within the Nursing Institute and a Fellow of three healthcare organizations and the American Academy of Nursing. She has published more than 350 peer-reviewed articles in nursing and medical journals, written book chapters, is editor of a 2016 book on nursing research, is first author of the newly published 6th edition of Quantum Leadership and is a national and international presenter.

Soon after becoming president of the HFSA, Dr. Albert shared what it means to serve, how nurses can make an impact in the heart failure subspecialty and more. 

Q: What does it mean to the nursing profession that the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) has elected a nurse as its president for the first time? 

Dr. Albert: I am honored that the Heart Failure Society of America leadership recruitment team had confidence in me to lead the organization in this coming year. The Heart Failure Society of America is a multidisciplinary organization, and heart failure management is a team sport, as it takes multiple healthcare providers – physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, basic scientists, nurse scientists and others – to deliver care, educate caregivers, innovate and develop new knowledge to improve the lives of all patients. Having a nurse as the president of the Heart Failure Society of America raises awareness of the value of team-based healthcare and helps all team members to understand that each member group has strengths and brings unique talents to the care of our patients.

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Q: How are nurses today making a difference in the heart failure subspecialty? 

Dr. Albert: Nurses across America have many different roles in heart failure care. Academic and clinical nurses educate and train men and women who are studying to become nurses or are new in their roles. Clinical nurses deliver acute and chronic care to patients with heart failure in multiple settings. Advanced practice nurses provide independent or team-based clinical care in hospitals and ambulatory care centers, including delivery of and changes in pharmacological therapies, education and support to patients who have worsening condition (triage to keep them out of the hospital). Nurses also make a difference in unique roles, such as case management, research, hospice, palliative care, home care and others, all of which are important to meet the needs of patients with heart failure.

Q: Why should nurses whose clinical practice includes patients with heart failure get involved in the HFSA? 

Dr. Albert: The Heart Failure Society of America is the home for heart failure for nurses and all professionals. The board of directors and management team spend 365 days a year working toward our mission to improve and assure evidence-based medical practices for patients, deliver education to members and support research meant to advance patient care. Nursing work does not occur in isolation; nurses are part of a team. As such, it is important that they belong to an organization that is multidisciplinary – an organization that listens to their needs, involves them in committees and work groups, promotes diversity and promotes their professionalism. The Heart Failure Society of America has a wonderful resource for nurses, the Journal of Cardiac Failure, that publishes clinical and basic science research, review papers and guidelines. Further, the Heart Failure Society of America has a strategic plan that is aimed at meeting core nurses’ needs.

Q: What are your goals for the HFSA under your leadership? 

Dr. Albert: There are many diverse goals in motion. Our committees carry out much of the work of the organization – and we have many committees, from advocacy and education to international relations and scientific statements. We will continue to carry out the strategic goals that were set by the Board of Directors in 2020 and ensure members are up to date on COVID-19 cardiac developments. We will initiate a heart failure certification for heart failure specialists and a new certificate-based asynchronous education program for non-heart failure specialists. This is just the tip of the iceberg!

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Q: What are the biggest challenges in heart failure care today? 

Dr. Albert: Certainly, we are living in unprecedented times right now, due to COVID-19. Safety is a priority, so we need to meet member needs in a way that assures their health and wellbeing. We need to learn the consequences of COVID-19 among previously healthy adults who developed heart failure in the hospital and also among our patients with chronic heart failure. We need to be advocates for enhancing telemedicine in a way that facilitates optimal medical decision making. There is heightened attention regarding disparities in patient care. This is an important topic that must be addressed through practice, education, research and innovation. Also, we recognize that there is inertia in provider-facilitated optimization of heart failure medical therapies and multiple factors and barriers to patients’ adherence to heart failure medical care and self-care expectations, all of which affect patients’ clinical outcomes and quality of life. 

Q: How can nurses help mitigate those challenges? 

Dr. Albert: Nurses need to be bold, brave and passionate about delivering optimal medical care. We need to listen to our patients, individualize care and innovate based on their specific needs. Heart failure is complex and in 2020 (and 2021) new therapies are being/will most likely be rolled out. Nurses will need to learn how to incorporate new therapies into usual clinical, prescribing and/or educational care delivery and advocate for their patients when issues arise. It is an exciting time to be a healthcare professional in heart failure care, and I believe nurses can be leaders in making a difference!