New Clinic Helps Avoid Hospitalizations, Improves Quality of Life

Ashley Blalock, DNP, APRN, NP-C, CHFNJune 12, 2020

For patients living with heart failure, a new option for treatment is available at the Carolina Heart and Vascular Center. Ashley Blalock DNP, APRN, NP-C, CHFN, runs the new heart failure clinic housed at the Carolina Heart and Vascular Center. The goal: To treat and care for patients with acute and chronic heart failure.

"Heart failure is the heart's inability to pump adequate blood to the rest of the body," says Blalock. "Some people develop it after a heart attack, but people with morbid obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and alcoholism can also suffer from heart failure." Blalock says the center can also help people with congestive heart failure.

"We can see patients the same day if they are having acute symptoms," she explains. "If someone is having heart palpitations, dizziness, lightheadedness, swelling or shortness of breath, they can come here and we can assess them. Depending on their situation, we can treat them here on the spot or send them to the hospital." Treating patients in the clinic can prevent a hospital admission and also improve quality of life. Blalock says the center's staff also work with home health agencies so patients can receive medications, like intravenous diuretics, in the comfort of their home.

Intensive Heart Failure Program

People with chronic heart failure are managed through an intensive program at the clinic. "Patients tend to have fewer hospital stays when they follow a schedule of medications and lifestyle modifications," says Blalock. "If they have recently been discharged, we see them weekly for the first four weeks to monitor symptoms and medications. They also take part in intensive disease education, learning about low-sodium diets, fluid restriction and the disease process. It's really important to stay on top of, because national statistics show that 50 percent of the people diagnosed with heart failure die within five years." If a patient meets the criteria for cardiac rehab, Blalock can help arrange.

Patient volume has increased since the clinic opened in October, and Blalock looks forward to helping patients live longer, healthier lives.

A Collaborative Effort

If you have a heart failure diagnosis, your cardiologist can work together with the heart clinic staff to set up a custom program for you. Blalock says the testing is done through a primary cardiologist, who is part of a multidisciplinary team that also includes the patient and their family. Those hospitalized will be identified by a heart failure clinical care coordinator, who helps transition patients for a seamless outpatient experience at the clinic.

About Ashley

Ashley Blalock DNP, APRN, NP-C, CHFN, joins Carolina Heart and Vascular as a board-certified adult nurse practitioner and certified heart failure nurse with eight years of experience caring for patients with heart failure in both the hospital and clinic setting. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Arizona State University, her Masters of Science in Nursing at Duke University and her Doctorate of Nursing Practice at Rush University. She is an active member of the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses and the Heart Failure Society of America.