Journal of Professional Nursing

Nurses and Heart Failure Education in Medical Wards

Jean Gilmour, RN, PhD, Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing, Massey University. Wellington, New Zealand
Alison Strong, RN, MN, Clinical Nurse Specialist - Heart Failure. Hawkes Bay DHB, Hastings, New Zealand
Mona Hawkins, RN, MN, Clinical Nurse Specialist - Cardiology. Hutt Valley DHB. Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Rachel Broadbent, RN, MN, Registered Nurse, Capital and Coast DHB. Wellington, New Zealand
Annette Huntington, RN, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Massey University. Wellington, New Zealand

Reference:  Gilmour, J., Strong, A., Hawkins, M., Broadbent, R. & Huntington, A. (2013). Nurses and heart failure education in medical wards. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 29(3), 5-17.


Heart failure is a chronic debilitating disease with significant hospitalisation rates. Information and education are foundational elements in making the lifestyle changes required for effective self-management of the symptoms of heart failure. This paper reports a study of medical nurses’ education activities with heart failure patients in terms of the topics they addressed and the educational resources they found most useful. A random sample of 540 medical ward nurses were surveyed in 2009 using a postal questionnaire. The response rate was 47% (234 medical ward nurses who cared for patients with heart failure). Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics, qualitative data through a content analysis approach. The majority of respondents (66.7%) cared for patients with heart failure several times each week. The total time spent on educational activities by most respondents (70.6%) was estimated as 20 minutes or less over the hospitalisation. Printed material was the most commonly used education resource although 35 respondents also referred to online information and 84 nurses did not use educational material at all. The most frequent education topics discussed were medication, signs and symptoms and general information about heart failure. Psychological factors and prognosis information were the topics least discussed with patients. Respondent suggestions to improve patient access to heart failure information included more printed information in wards such as pamphlets in various languages, information about useful websites and having key resources available in te reo Maori. The heart failure educator was identified as an important resource for both nurses and patients. The study highlighted the limited time many respondents spent on educational activities and the need for readily available educational resources to optimise patient heart failure education opportunities.

Nurses, medical wards, heart failure education, survey

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