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Empathy is the heartbeat of cardiac nursing

Cardiac nurses talk about the patient-nurse bond t
Photo: Empathy is the heartbeat of cardiac nursing
Cardiac nurses play a crucial role in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease - but it’s more than that. Empathy and walking alongside someone on what can be a frightening journey is at the heart of cardiac nursing.

“If someone is doing nursing, then they will have compassion, but more and more it's about having empathy as well”, said Bindu Valsala Chandran, registered nurse and Senior Heart Health Coordinator at the Heart Foundation NT.

“For somebody who's had a heart attack, it's a near death experience for them, and it's terrifying.”

“You're not just there to give them the medications and check in on them. You're there to go on that same journey with them - that's really important.”

“Most people are feeling a lot of confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty, so you go there and you be with them and you listen to them”, Ms Valsala Chandran told HealthTimes.
“You tell them the positive stories about how other people have coped with being in that situation, and how we can help.”

“There are so many things that they can do – there are organizations, there are so many additional resources out there, and people who can help them get back to their normal life”, she said.

For Maria Sheehan, a nurse practitioner caring for people with heart failure in the community, it’s her love of working with people, as well as a fascination with the heart, that drew her to cardiac nursing.

“There's something really magical about the heart and the way that it works – it is its own little motor. It controls itself. It's not answerable to anything else in the body, as long as the body's working. I find it really exciting the way that it functions.”

“Then there’s the other thing that I really enjoy about cardiac nursing, which is what I enjoy about nursing as a whole, is helping people and making them feel comfortable no matter whether that's in life or whether that's in death.”

“One story that I often think of is a patient who I was looking after when I was working in London at one of the private hospitals”, Ms Sheehan told HealthTimes.

“I was telling him about how my dad was coming over from New Zealand, and he was really interested in the fact that my dad was coming over to have a holiday and was going to travel around with me, and that my dad liked the All Blacks.”

“He thought that my dad would really enjoy visiting him because he lived in a place called Rugby in England.”

“And he invited me to bring my dad to his place. I did – a little nervously because you don't really have that sort of relationship with patients.”

“But I'm so glad I did introduce him to my dad, because they stayed lifelong friends.”

“Dad travelled over several times to meet up with him. They even went to Europe together with their respective partners.”

“Unfortunately, the patient has passed away now, but it was just really lovely to be able to give my father something to do when he came to visit me. And he developed a lifelong friend from it.”

One of things Ms Valsala Chandran enjoys most about her role with the Heart Foundation is working with patients.

“My role is quite varied, but if I had to pinpoint one thing I enjoy the most, it would be my engagement with patients.”

“I get to go to the hospital and talk to people who have had a heart attack or angina, and have been admitted to hospital.”

“That brings me back to my clinical days, where I always enjoyed that patient interaction the most.”

While dealing with the loss of a patient is a part of working in any nursing speciality, Ms Sheehan said that being able to make a difference to someone at the end of their life helps her cope with a loss.

“You often do get so involved with patients while you're caring for them and trying to really give them the best care and the best experience – no matter what it is.”

“You know that you've done a good job for them and that it’s been done with care and with kindness”, explained Ms Sheehan.

“So for me, I feel the loss or the sadness of a patient passing is overtaken by the good things that you've done for them and helping them get there with less pain or less breathlessness, and in a manner that's really comfortable for them and their family.”

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Charlotte Mitchell

Charlotte is a published journalist and editor, with 10 years of experience in developing high-quality content for national and international publications.

With an academic background in both science and communications, she specialises in medical and science writing. Charlotte is passionate about creating engaging, evidence-based content that equips the community with important information on issues around healthcare, medicine and research.

Over the years, she has partnered with organisations including the Medical Journal of Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Bupa, the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Dementia Australia, MDA National, pharmaceutical companies, and state and federal government agencies, to produce high-impact news and clinical content  for different audiences.