Support & Advice for Cardiac Nurse Specialists

By Tiny Tickers Head of Training, Anne Rhodes.

One group of health professionals that are quietly, and constantly on the frontline of CHD treatment, care and support are the Cardiac Nurse Specialists (CNS).

CNS’s are teams of experienced paediatric cardiac nurses who can support families with an antenatal diagnosis. They often work in very difficult and upsetting circumstances. These nurses are based at cardiac centres which are not always in the same place as the Fetal Medicine Unit where the family may have received an antenatal diagnosis.

Different centres have different services available and the specialist nurse may not always be able to attend the Fetal Medicine Unit at the point of diagnosis. These specialist nurses provide information, support and signposting. They are able to organise visits to the cardiac centres during pregnancy to reassure and familiarise patient families with their future surroundings.

Advice for cardiac nurses

The physical challenges that Cardiac Nurse Specialists face in their work environment are the same as countless frontline NHS staff – masks, physical distancing, reduced staffing levels due to self isolation or illness. On top of this, cardiac nurses face very emotive and challenging patient care. They often deliver distressing and difficult news to families, made more difficult by the current global pandemic. The human face is extremely expressive and is able to convey countless emotions but the wearing of face masks takes away the invaluable aspect of this non-verbal communication. Offering reassurance and comfort whilst considering social/physical distancing makes this situation so much harder.

Advice for Cardiac Nurse Specialists

  1. Caring for babies, children and families affected by CHD can be challenging. Nurses, don’t forget to reach out to your colleagues for support when needed.
  2. Use your line managers as much as you require. They can signpost you to local support services and organise clinical supervision if needed.
  3. Try not to take your work/cases home with you – learn to compartmentalise
  4. We know that you work in an emotionally demanding environment, self-care is a priority, not a luxury 
  5. Access any courses you can in communicating unexpected news and bereavement counselling

By Anne Rhodes, August 2020