Heart Health: Taking Heart: Better Care for Heart Failure

by FirstHealth of the Carolinas 

Heart failure impacts the lives of more than 5 million Americans. Many people who have the disease experience various challenges managing it, which increases their likelihood of experiencing a health crisis and potential hospitalization.

This month, FirstHealth of the Carolinas opens the doors to the FirstHealth Heart Failure Clinic located in the Reid Heart Center in Pinehurst that will focus on helping heart failure patients manage this complex disease.

Dinah Welch, a family nurse practitioner who directs the clinic, answers questions about heart failure, the clinic and the benefits for patients in the Sandhills.

Q. What is heart failure?

A.  Heart failure means that the heart isn’t pumping as well as it should be. Your body depends on the heart’s pumping action to deliver oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the body’s cells. When the cells are nourished properly, the body can function normally. With heart failure, the weakened heart can’t supply the cells with enough blood. This results in fatigue and shortness of breath and some people have coughing. Everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying groceries can become very difficult.

Heart failure is a serious condition, and usually there’s no cure. However, many people with heart failure can lead a full, enjoyable life through a healthy lifestyle and proper management of the condition.  

Q. How will the clinic benefit patients with heart failure?

A.  Heart failure is the primary diagnosis in more than 1 million hospitalizations annually in the United States, and patients hospitalized for heart failure are at high risk for rehospitalization.

Studies have shown that heart failure clinics providing specialized care using a multidisciplinary team of experts are successful in reducing mortality and rehospitalizations. 

The FirstHealth Heart Failure Clinic provides patients convenient access to expert heart care.  Once a patient is referred to the heart failure clinic, they will undergo an extensive evaluation by our care team and receive appropriate therapeutic options and educational needs that will help them better understand and actively manage their heart failure. Our primary goals are to minimize rehospitalization, reduce mortality and improve the quality of life for patients with heart failure.

Q. What is your role in the clinic?

A. I am the nurse practitioner for the clinic. I will see patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings to perform comprehensive examinations, adjust medications and provide counseling as needed to help patients become active participants in managing their heart failure. Heart failure is a chronic illness and requires input from the patient regarding goals of care. 

Dinah Welch attended the University of Florida where she received master’s degrees in family nurse practitioner and public health and a Ph.D., in nursing. Most of her career has been in caring for cardiac patients.  According to Welch, she feels called and very privileged to care for this patient population.  

To learn more about the FirstHealth Heart Failure clinic, call (910) 715-8691.