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Nurse practitioners make their move: The AANP joins the Million Hearts initiative

Thursday February 20, 2014
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Angela Golden, RN
Following a successful collaboration with the White House’s Joining Forces program, helping nurse practitioners understand the needs of returning veterans, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners accepted an invitation to partner with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on its Million Hearts campaign to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Nurse.com talked with AANP President Angela Golden, RN, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, about the initiative.

Q: Why did AANP join Million Hearts?

A: We wanted to be part of saving a million people over five years from having strokes and heart attacks. Million Hearts is bringing us to the forefront of the national discussion on heart attack and stroke. And because the goal is cardiovascular health and helping people be as healthy as they can, it was a perfect fit for nurse practitioners. In nursing, we are taught prevention from day one. These initiatives fit into our model of care. We are first and foremost about wellness and prevention, and then we move on to treat any disease processes a patient may have.

Q: What makes Million Hearts different than prior lifestyle campaigns?

A: One thing Million Hearts has done that is really effective is engage with professional associations — from nurse practitioners to pharmacists to physicians and physician assistants. In addition to empowering people to make healthier choices, the campaign includes ABCS, a way to achieve the goals of Million Hearts. It’s making sure we have done the clinical prevention, that the appropriate patients receive aspirin, that their blood pressure is under control, cholesterol is managed and they have stopped smoking. Many electronic health records have pop-up notes to remind you at the next visit to check cholesterol. Million Hearts worked with the information technology people on those quality improvement initiatives.

Q: What is AAPN asking of its members?

A: We have asked nurse practitioners to share their stories about what they have done in their communities to help meet the goals of Million Hearts. For instance, one nurse practitioner had heard the Million Hearts talk and was motivated to set up “blood pressure days” in her small community. She was then able to find people with high blood pressure who did not know they had it. She put together a group of patients with hypertension and helped them through lifestyle management reduce their blood pressures by 31%. Another nurse practitioner began a primary care clinic for the homeless and found a significant number had hypertension. She was able to use tools from the Million Hearts website to help them get it under control. We have done education, such as webinars and presentations about Million Hearts at our conferences. AANP reminds members about the campaign through e-bulletins and has held group lecture series at state-level conferences.

Q: Why are NPs in a position to make a difference?

A: One of the things that makes us effective in helping patients make decisions for a healthier lifestyle is our communication techniques drawn from our nursing experience and nursing education. We learn to look at a whole patient and how to communicate as opposed to looking at the disease process first. Nurse practitioners always come out with some of the highest scores in patient satisfaction, and that comes from patients feeling there is communication. When a holistic approach is the underpinning of your profession, it puts you in a strong position to help your patients be as healthy as they can be. You are partnering with them to make good lifestyle changes, not prescribing it to them. We still meet the evidence-based guidelines to prevent further illness. We focus on quality of life. If we prevent heart attacks and strokes, we will improve the overall quality of life for whole communities.

To see what else is trending in stroke, visit www.Nurse.com/Stroke.


Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email specialty@Nurse.com.