Q&A with the Heart Failure Society of America’s First Nurse President, Dr. Nancy Albert

Insight on heart failure awareness and the work of HFSA

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In celebration of Heart Failure Awareness Week (Feb. 14-20, 2021) and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institute of Health American Heart Month, Cleveland Clinic Associate Chief Nursing Officer (ACNO) for Nursing Research and Innovation, Nancy M. Albert, PhD, CCNS, CHFN, CCRN, NE-BC, FAHA, FCCM, FHFSA, FAAN, offers her perspectives on heart failure awareness and the work of the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA).

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Dr. Albert is the first nurse to serve as President of HFSA, a role she assumed in October 2020 and will hold through September 2021. She has been a member of the organization of heart failure providers, clinicians, basic and clinical scientists, educators, pharmacists and others since 1997, and is an expert in clinical heart failure.

In addition to her role as ACNO, Dr. Albert is also a Clinical Nurse Specialist at the George M. and Linda H. 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, and a fellow of three healthcare organizations and the American Academy of Nursing.

How will HFSA promote heart failure awareness this year?

The HFSA website will include information specific to heart failure awareness, and importantly, we have a toolkit and other information that members can download and use locally within their organizations and healthcare centers to raise awareness of heart failure. Since heart failure is more likely in older adults, it is important to increase awareness of signs and symptoms, so that people can contact their provider if they believe they have heart failure or if they believe that their heart failure is worsening. Although heart failure is generally a chronic condition, it can be improved with the right medications and with lifestyle changes.

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Can nurses and other caregivers help support HFSA’s Heart Failure Awareness Week efforts?

Yes! All healthcare professionals can support our awareness efforts. Simply sharing signs and symptoms of worsening condition can help patients make decisions about contacting providers earlier in the course of decompensation. Patient-provider communication could decrease the need for hospitalization and importantly, patients will feel better and have a better quality of life. Also, communicating the need for regular follow-up appointments, even when feeling fine, is important, as many medications used to treat heart failure need to be up-titrated. Regular office visits allow providers to optimize medication therapy that could improve morbidity and mortality.

As HFSA President, what are some of your goals for the association?

One goal is called “365 Community.” We aim to increase the quantity and quality of networking opportunities for all members and be a clearinghouse of information for patients, their families and all healthcare professionals. That goal is on track to launch later this year! Another goal is to be a leading resource for heart failure research. We work with industry partners and aim to create synergies between researchers and potential study sites and participants. We continue to use our committee structure to carry out the strategic goals and meet member needs for advocacy, new medical knowledge and other needs.

Since taking office, what notable accomplishments have you and the HFSA achieved?

There is a lot of activity in motion at all times. We are in the process of offering a heart failure certification (HF-Cert) program to providers of heart failure clinical care. Certification demonstrates excellence in the field and we look forward to members becoming certified and showing their knowledge. We are also in the midst of developing an Optimized Medical Therapies Certificate (OMT Certificate) program that would allow any heart failure professional to gain the knowledge they need to clinically manage the complexities of heart failure. This is an important program, since many providers do not prescribe life-saving medications at the right doses. The program will use cases to help heart failure professionals navigate the complexities of managing adults with heart failure. Further, we recently named a new editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cardiac Failure, the official journal of the Heart Failure Society of America. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the new editor and editorial board, as the new team has great ideas to further enhance the value of the journal to members. All of the above is taking place in addition to education, advocacy, innovation and international collaborations, which are continuously in motion to meet the needs of our heart failure community.

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What else do you hope to accomplish throughout the remainder of your term?

I am hopeful that we can implement initiatives that truly make us the “home for heart failure” for all members – patients, providers, clinicians and others. We have plans that we will be discussing this month and in April at our board of directors retreat meetings. It is too soon to discuss, but our vision is to reduce the burden of heart failure. To do that, we need to ensure global awareness of the morbidity and mortality of heart failure to communities of health care professionals at large. We also need to educate patients so that they can be in control of their health and as mentioned, educate providers so that they are optimizing medical therapies!

How do you feel HFSA and its members impact the future of heart failure care?

Members of HFSA are passionate about delivery of best practices in heart failure. They are also passionate about learning new treatments and understanding the interactions, pros and cons of all therapies and management strategies. As we grow our membership, more healthcare professionals and patients will understand evidence-based practices and can be better able to provide consistent care that matches best practices. The more we learn, the more we grow. The more we grow, the more we can share with others. Communicating and collaborating on best practices and incorporating new knowledge into current practices is one way members of HFSA can impact the future of heart failure care. We have a lot of work ahead of us and the road may not be smooth, but the passion our members have for decreasing the burden of heart failure creates optimism that the road to the future will be very exciting and rewarding.

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