June 26, 2015
3 min read

Presidential address: Research, advocacy top priorities for AAHFN

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NEW ORLEANS — The common goals of acute care nurses caring for patients with HF were front-and-center during the presidential address on day one of the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses annual meeting.

Connie Lewis, MSN, ACNP-BC, NP-C, CCRN, CHFN, president of AAHFN and a HF nurse practitioner at Vanderbilt Medical Center, Franklin, Tenn., reviewed the strengths of the organization and highlighted the attributes of members and volunteers who promote excellence in HF care.

“HF nurses are important because we know the guidelines,” said Lewis. “You know the education, you know the implications for transition of care and what it’s going to take to get your patient out of the hospital.”

Lewis underscored the value HF nurses add to a practice, from their skilled level of care to the knowledge it takes to provide it.

“You are motivated because you have a passion for helping others,” Lewis said. “If you’re walking that journey with your patient from their new diagnosis to their death, and then supporting their families, some days are not easy,”

Research and value

Although the AAHFN has always had a research committee, the organization recognizes unmet needs exist and is expanding its emphasis in this area to address them.

“We need to add to the database in how to take care of patients,” Lewis said. “Many times we do things because it’s expert opinion but we don’t have the data to support why we’re doing it.”

Sodium and fluid restriction are among two areas yet unsubstantiated by research, she noted.

Lewis encouraged the HF nurses, already striving to provide optimum care and seeking to improve their institutions, to view themselves as adjuncts to the primary researchers.

“You have another hat — and it’s research,” she said.

HF nurses do “a little bit of everything,” she said with pride, including: interdisciplinary and comprehensive care, case and disease management, preventive in-home and outpatient clinic visits, care in geriatric and in nursing homes, patient evaluation, pharmacologic and chronic disease care, proactive rehabilitation, caregiver support, hospital-to-home initiatives, teaching, telephone follow-ups, discharge and care coordination, early assessments and medication reconciliation.

“We do everything because that’s what nurses do,” said Lewis.


She encouraged the crowd to present to their employers the many publications that now offer detailed evidence of the “specialist” value HF nurses bring to their patients, institutions and community. “We are important,” she said.

Advocacy and goals

While HF nurses are busy in the field managing symptoms, providing education, developing approaches to decrease hospital admissions and improving quality of life for individuals, caregivers and their families, a dearth of well-trained nurse educators exists in academia.

“[AAHFN] supported the Title VIII legislative bill for more funding to support nurse educators,” Lewis said.

The organization’s advocacy committee is also working with the American Nurses Association to bring the issues in the nursing community to the forefront, she added.

Lewis underscores that “getting buy-in” on new programs is a significant challenge and critical to their success.

“It’s the stakeholders and nursing administrators understanding what you do as a HF nurse and supporting you, and it’s us working together as a team that provides for our patients in multiple settings.”

With a comprehensive strategic plan updated every year, AAHFN is uniquely poised and energized to continue along a path to moving forward effectively.

“We are the only nursing organization that is solely focused on HF,” she said. “We promote a paradigm for the development, engagement and inspiration of volunteers and members at every level. We are training, coaching, mentoring; we have comprehensive models and succession plans for our leaders and our chairs to carry forward.”

Lewis acknowledged volunteer efforts as contributing to the “excellence” of AAHFN, with the range of experiences and skills helping to promote learning and personal growth.

“The AAHFN volunteers worked tirelessly to achieve our mission of leading nurses in HF care and achieve our goal to set the standard for HF nursing care.” – by Allegra Tiver


Lewis, C. Presidential Address. Presented at: American Association of Heart Failure Nurses Annual Meeting; June 25-27, 2015; New Orleans.

Disclosure: Lewis reports no relevant financial disclosures.