How Nurse Amber Hice Championed Better Care for Heart Failure Patients at CVMC
Catawba Valley Medical Center (CVMC) nurse Amber Hice already had a string of acronyms behind her own name when she decided to jump on an opportunity and help the hospital navigate the process of getting heart failure accredited by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC). Much more than alphabet soup, SCPC is an accrediting body that signifies a hospital’s strict commitment to providing improved care for a very sick segment of people – those with heart failure.
“The SCPC motto is to ‘bring science to the bedside’,” said Amber. “I love it! It’s all about providing a standard of care that incorporates best practices.” Amber started by learning about the background and science of heart failure; she learned that the opportunity accreditation provides is an enormous step towards offering better patient care.
Using improved processes, procedures and best practices for the specialized care heart failure patients need, not only helps patients – it also helps reduce the financial burden heart failure places on patients and hospitals alike. According to the SCPC, heart failure is the number one reason for hospitalization in all patients aged 65 years and older. What’s more, readmissions are common and costly for both heart failure patients and hospitals now being penalized by new regulations based on excessive readmissions.
Sara Paul, RN, DNP, FNP with Catawba Valley Cardiology worked with Amber during the process and, to their delight, they learned that most of what was required was already in practice at CVMC. They just needed to create more formal documentation around the processes already in place. Knowing this, Amber became a primary champion of the cause.
“Heart failure is a chronic progressive disease, so it is never cured, but we have learned numerous ways to improve quality of life and prevent hospital readmissions as much as possible,” said Paul. “For example, as part of the accreditation process, Amber had to cull through data points of 30 heart failure patients and send SCPC the data. Once that initial data was submitted, she sat down with CVMC Project Coordinator, Ginger Biggerstaff to create a detailed project with timelines and targeted areas for improvement. We assembled a team, [see sidebar for list of team members] built action plans, set milestones and initiated a gap analysis to identify opportunities. Then, after the one year process and a visit from accreditation surveyors, we received news from SCPC that we had achieved accreditation!”
During her 7 years working at CVMC, Amber has demonstrated a commendable pursuit of advanced degrees and higher education in nursing related to heart failure patients. As a registered nurse (RN), she returned to school to obtain her bachelor’s degree (BSN) and continued studying to acquire a credential in progressive care (PCCN) and cardiac medicine (CMC) credentialing from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Now it looks as if Amber’s dedication will help patients beyond the reach of CVMC. She says that SCPC constituents have been impressed with the value of a clinical tool that CVMC created in-house, and they are considering adopting it and recommending it as a best practice. The tool, called the subjective activity tolerance tool, is a metric that helps assign a value to help assess a patient’s likelihood to comply with order sets based on whether or not they fatigue easily or present various energy levels.