Friday 23 November, 2012

Caring in the community

A morning with a heart failure nurse

Ben KolbWe support over 300 heart failure specialist nurses across the UK. Senior Research Communications Officer Ben Kolb tells us more about the difference they are making.

Leonia, a BHF Heart Failure Specialist NurseWorking on our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal means I spend a lot of time explaining the research behind the Appeal and heart failure – the condition we hope to cure.  However, until I spent a morning with a heart failure nurse, I didn’t fully appreciate the impact heart failure can have on a person’s life.

I met Leonia (right), a heart failure specialist nurse, at a south west London clinic. This is her patch – she travels around the area visiting people in their homes but also holds consultations in clinics for local people to attend. Leonia has been supported by us for six years.

Supporting people with heart failure

It was fascinating to learn how helpful our support can be – from providing specialist training and resources to giving advice and support at a time when a patient needs it most. Leonia cares for people in their own homes and at clinics which hopefully helps to prevent what can be lengthy hospital stays. Nurses like Leonia can assess people, checking how they’re coping with their heart failure symptoms, and give them support and information to improve their quality of life.

Hospital doorsHeart failure is a chronic condition often caused by the damage left by a heart attack – if your heart is unable to pump blood properly around the body, it can cause long-term suffering and take away the everyday tasks most people take for granted. I shadowed Leonia when she visited an elderly lady in her home. This lady was reliant on a full-time carer and had trouble getting around in her flat. But it was amazing to see how she perked up around Leonia and the district nurse.

Our heart failure nurses provide more than just a medical service. They offer support and a personalised approach – Leonia cares a lot about her patients and each one requires different care.

Later in the morning when another lady visited Leonia at the clinic – she was someone who Leonia had cared for five or six years previously. They both remembered each other and there was clearly a bond between them. Leonia can be a lifeline for her patients, someone who will listen and help, someone who is always on their side – it’s difficult for a hospital that treats thousands but Leonia cares for individuals.

Finding a cure for heart failure

Heart failure can mean you can’t do normal everyday things like making a cup of tea or walking to the shops but it fills me with pride to know that we support people like Leonia who are making a difference every day. Our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal desperately needs your support if, through research, we’re to come up with a cure for this often devastating condition. Our support for nurses gives people with heart failure hope for today and the science we’re funding offers hope for the future.