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At the end of this section, you will be able to:


  • Explain the importance of patient education

  • Discuss why most patients do not understand the meaning of the term "heart failure"

  • Identify the key aspects of patient education

  • Describe how patient education should differ between genders

  • Explain to patients the importance of making end of life decisions.


Educating About Heart Failure

The very first thing that a new HF patient should be educated on is HF itself. Most patients do not know its true meaning, and assume that their heart has suffered a catastrophic failure that will result in imminent death [1]. Patients need to understand that the reserve power of their heart to pump has decreased. You can lessen their anxiety by explaining that in many cases, the heart is still able to provide enough pumping power when they are at rest.

Even simple patient education programs can have great effect. For example, in a study by Serxner, et al. (1998) [2], an educational program was developed that involved no direct contact with health care professionals. Instead, the patients were mailed packages once every three weeks for a total of twelve weeks, that emphasized self-management and healthy behaviours. Compared with standard HF patients, these patients demonstrated a 51% reduction in total hospital readmissions as well as improved compliance with weighing themselves regularly and eating a low-salt diet.

Because the mortality rate of HF patients is so high, and also because many HF patients are elderly, it is important to discuss the making of end of life decisions with your patients. [1]




1. Grady KL, Dracup K, Kennedy G, Moser DK, Piano M, Stevenson LW, Young JB. Team Management of Patients With Heart Failure. Circulation. 2000;102:2443-2456.

2. Serxner S, Miyaji M, Jeffords J. Congestive heart failure disease management: a patient education intervention. Congestive Heart Failure. 1998;4:23-28.

All references for this section