Care and comfort for heart failure patients

Director of Cardiac Programs, Janet Roman

Heart disease is the number one killer for all Americans according to the American Heart Association. Unfortunately, African Americans suffer even higher rates with black men having a 70 percent and women a 50 percent higher risk of developing incurable heart failure.

Heart failure is a particularly distressing condition for the patient and their families. It causes shortness of breath, excess fluid, swelling and other discomfort.

Palliative-focused cardiac care provides an expert layer of care coordination, education and pain and symptom treatment to help improve comfort for patients, keep them at home and support families. Palliative care focuses on quality of life; treating and preventing symptoms and side effects.

Empath Health has introduced a new Heart Failure Home Care program for patients living with advanced cardiac disease. Overseeing this program is our newly-appointed Director of Cardiac Programs, Janet Roman, DNP, RN, APRN, ACNP-BC, CHFN, ACHPN.

Dr. Roman uniquely holds additional nursing certifications in advanced heart failure and advanced hospice and palliative care.

This specialized work is a labor of love for Dr. Roman. She developed cardiac disease management and palliative care programs for patients in a Philadelphia health system and at the New Orleans Department of Veterans Affairs. She also has performed research studies, taught nurses, educated providers, worked in nursing and served as a flight medic in the air force.

“I’ve always wanted to go into the medical field. Nursing is my passion. It is a privilege to be able to take both of my passions and bridge them together to create a program for our community. I enjoy helping patients and giving back to the community,” Dr. Roman shared.

The Empath Health Heart Failure Home Care program provides a palliative approach of care review, collaboration with physicians, goal planning, nursing education about nutrition and weight management, pain and symptom treatment and other support as needed.

“I make sure families understand the disease process and the management of symptoms. Sometimes they don’t understand that patients are tired and need a nap. The heart’s one job is pumping fluid forward, and if it can’t do that job then it’s failing.”

Dr. Roman said she answers questions such as: “What do we do if they have chest pain,” “When do we go to the hospital,” or “When do we call 911?”

Her care helps advise, plan with and comfort patients.

“My job is to manage patients’ symptoms and improve their quality of life. I talk with patients when they are feeling their best. I talk openly and honestly. We explore their goals of care. I ask questions like, “What do you want?” or “When do you want to be put on a breathing machine,” Dr. Roman noted.

She also helps educate and support families.

“There’s no cure for heart failure. Patients’ number one distressing symptom is shortness of breath, and that causes anxiety, which then causes more shortness of breath. Shortness of breath usually is what leads patients to the hospital. They need palliative care integrated into their everyday care. This comprehensive home-based program aims to decrease heart failure symptoms, decrease hospitalizations and increase quality of life for patients. It also brings peace of mind and additional support for families,” she explained.

We are proud to lead in this new model of care and in turn improving the quality of life of those with advanced heart failure and their caregivers in our community.

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