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In this blog series, we’ll dive into the many sectors of healthcare and rehabilitation through the lens of providers nationwide. As they share their time and expertise with us, we hope to get a better understanding of the various populations we serve across settings and how we can best work as an interdisciplinary team.

American Heart Month – Through the Lens of Our Nursing Partners

While we take time in February to recognize the 57th consecutive American Heart Month, it’s important to ask why this subject has gained so much recognition and why it matters so much to healthcare providers. American Hearth Month was first proclaimed in 1964 by president Lyndon B. Johnson, as he was amongst the millions of Americans with heart disease; since its conception, heart disease has progressed to lay claim as our country’s #1 killer.

The American Heart Association has emphasized that the efforts to spread awareness around heart disease is even more important due to added implications with the rise of the coronavirus. Healthcare providers continue to see the long-term impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our nation’s heart health across all settings. Lockdown contributed to poorer lifestyle changes and apprehension towards seeking medical help, which has ultimately contributed to an even greater rise of Americans at risk of critical health conditions.

As therapy providers across multiple settings (SNF, LTC, Home health), we are seeing patients admitted with what was once quickly managed disease processes that are now resulting in prolonged, or in some cases, long-term, stays in nursing homes and/or assisted living communities. Individuals are losing their ability to maintain autonomy as they become dependent on caregivers due to the complexity of their cardiac disease processes and subsequent diagnoses.

In order to get a better understanding of our cardiac population, we sat down with Macrina Garcia, a Cardiac Nurse Practitioner (NP) at the Cleveland Clinic. Macrina currently serves as an NP on the structural valve team, preparing patients for transcatheter aortic valve replacements– called the TAVR procedure. Prior to joining the TAVR team, Macrina worked as a registered nurse (RN) on the cardiovascular stepdown unit at Cleveland Clinic for 7.5 years. The unit saw patients with diagnoses ranging from heart failure, heart conduction/pacemaker placement, status post/pre-open-heart surgery, stent placements, and endocarditis…to name a few.

We first asked Macrina what she would want healthcare providers, who are not working exclusively with this population, to understand about cardiac patients. She placed the most emphasis on the importance of healthcare providers and those caring for this population understanding the physical implications that cardiac diseases have on our bodies. “Often times, aortic stenosis patients become decompensated, requiring extra assistance, leading to a loss of an ability to indecently complete simple activities of daily living (ADLs) and subsequently a referral to therapy in their discharge environment. And even more often, we are now seeing patients who are becoming highly deconditioned, unable to discharge back to their home environment.”

Macrina states that through her years of working with the cardiac population, she’s gained a lens into the rehab world and how critical the physical component of cardiac rehab is for quality of life. Her advice to those who have a diagnosis related to heart health and those caring for them is to encourage healthy living habits as much as possible. “Healthy diet and an active lifestyle are critical to managing these disease processes. As healthcare providers, we have to give our patients the necessary tools and access to providers, like therapy, to ensure they maintain strength and autonomy to keep moving.”

For more information on heart health, Macrina recommends utilizing resources from credible affiliations, such as the American Heart Association, and always going to your annual checkups.

About the author:

Masha Cherpakov M.S.,CCC-SLP, RAC-CT
Regional Vice President

Masha started with Encore in 2015 as a staff Speech Language Pathologist and currently serves as a Regional Vice President in Ohio. Passionate about the geriatric population and advocacy, she has recently joined the NASL 2022 Class of Emerging Leaders, where she participates in visits to the hill to promote change and value in our industry to our policy makers. Her mission is to provide all with an opportunity to make their voices heard.