|Is Vascular Nursing for You
Karla A. Knight, RN, MSN
you think circulation, do you just think heart? Maybe you
should take a closer look.
Blood flow doesnt stop at the heart, according to Karen Bruni, RN, MSN, FNP, CVN, immediate past president of the Society of Vascular Nursing (SVN). People tend to focus on the heart, but there are veins and arteries elsewhere, she says. Vascular nurses take care of patients with a wide range of conditions and diseases of the vascular system.
Opportunities for Vascular Nurses
As nurse practitioner and clinical manager of vascular surgery at the Institute for Vascular Health and Disease, Albany Medical Center and Hospital, Albany, NY, Bruni works with eight vascular surgeons and five interventional radiologists. Although she works closely with the inpatient unit, she supervises the nurses in the outpatient department and oversees the medical records of 16,000 annual patient visits.
Brunis role is not entirely unique, however. Others in the vascular nursing field perform the following roles:
Like cardiac rehabilitation nursing, educating patients about modifying their risk factors is a large part of vascular nursing practice, according to Bruni. In fact, to become a CVN (certified vascular nurse), a qualified nurse must take the cardiac/vascular nurse certification exam available through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Registered nurses who have 2,000 hours of vascular nursing practice in three years with 30 contact hours of continuing education in vascular nursing may sit for the exam.
Who Needs a Vascular Nurse?
Generally, Bruni says, patients who require care from a vascular nurse are very sick, most often geriatric, and have many comorbid illnesses, such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, renal artery disease, eye problems, and peripheral circulation complications resulting from diabetes and atherosclerosis.
Vascular nurses care for patients who require
Challenges and Rewards
Vascular nurses work with patients to develop heart- and vascular-healthy lifestyles concentrating on diet, exercise, smoking cessation, obesity, stress management, diabetes, hypertension, and blood lipid levels. Helping patients modify their risk factors by developing a good diet, exercising, and quitting smoking can be frustrating, says Bruni.
Lack of exercise is another problem area. Its a lifestyle issue because many people are sedentary, and this contributes to atherosclerosis. Patients with clogged arteries may try to walk for exercise and their legs become tired because the vessels dont circulate blood as well. They become so tired after a short time, they stop and then they stop walking altogether. Patients hate hearing that we still want them to walk even though its uncomfortable, says Bruni. Its important for them to stop, rest, and then continue with movement in spite of the discomfort.
Bruni adds that the greatest challenges in vascular nursing are also the greatest rewards. The gratification from saving a bypass graft, being with a patient throughout a procedure, or motivating a patient to quit smoking is what gets me through the day. The patients, just as in nursing in general, are the greatest rewards.
Future of Vascular Nursing
Twenty years ago, a small group of nurses started meeting together and networking while accompanying their surgeon-employers to vascular surgery conferences. The group, who recently celebrated their 20th anniversary, has grown steadily and there are now almost 750 national and international members of the Society for Vascular Nursing.
Nurses interested in vascular nursing can go to the SVNs website at www.svnnet.org to locate a local chapter for networking. The website also has a bulletin board where nurses can ask patient care questions of their vascular nurse colleagues. The Journal of Vascular Nursing publishes the most recent research in the field.
According to Bruni, the future is bright for vascular nurses. Vascular nursing has been around for 20 years, and I expect that it will be around for at least 20 more. Getting the word out is so important. We all think about the heart first, but peripheral circulation needs attention too! Each one of us has a passion for something, and for me, vascular nursing is it.