Conemaugh Memorial Introduces Nurse Navigator for Congestive Heart Failure Patients

August 31, 2016

Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center is enhancing the patient experience provided through its Cardiac Service Line through implementation of a Nurse Navigator. Michelle George, RN, BSN, has accepted the position for the development of a comprehensive program for management of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) patients. Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center treats approximately 800-900 CHF patients per year.

Several important initiatives will be developed as the CHF program expands over the next few years. The program will utilize current evidence-based guidelines to create hospital-wide standard protocols and clinical pathways for the prevention, detection, and management of heart failure patients. The goals of the initiatives are healthier patients and decreased readmission rates. Conemaugh's Primary Care Resource Center also offers services to CHF patients, helping healthcare providers to monitor care from admission to discharge and after returning home.

"We are very pleased to offer this service to our patients," says Kerri Tononi, Executive Director of Cardiovascular Services at Conemaugh Memorial. "CHF is prevalent in our community and the ability to offer a program that will support our patients in getting the care they need is critical." Several programs for CHF are in place at Conemaugh Memorial to support the patient population. The CHF Nurse Navigator role is the newest to ensure patients receive appropriately care. "We have selected Michelle to lead the Nurse Navigator position because of her very successful development of our Cardiac Rehab program at Conemaugh Memorial," says Tononi. "She understands and is proficient at growing new programs, but most importantly, she has many years of experience working with cardiac patients and understanding their needs. We are excited about the new program and have confidence that our patients will receive care that is second to none under Michelle's clinical expertise and leadership."

George's experience includes working at Conemaugh Memorial's Cardiac Rehabilitation Center as the Nurse manager, a position she held since 1989. She has been a member of the Conemaugh family since 1983. George is a member of the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses, Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, and American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. She is also an Aerobic and Fitness Association of America Fitness Practitioner and Personal Trainer.

"I am very excited to be chosen for the new Heart Failure Nurse Navigator position and to be involved with providing guidance to patients and their families across the continuum of heart failure care," says George. "Heart failure remains the fastest growing cardiovascular disorder and the most common reason for hospitalization. Education is of high importance for patients, families, and health care providers to have key elements in slowing down the process. This includes recognizing early signs and symptoms of worsening heart failure, complications, optimizing heart failure therapies, and improving communication between multiple health care providers and their patients." 

Heart Failure is a chronic long term medical condition in which it is important for patients to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow a health care treatment plan. Some health conditions which can lead to heart failure include high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and abnormal heart valves. Certain unhealthy behaviors can increase the risk of heart failure, such as, being overweight, tobacco use, eating foods high in fat and cholesterol, lack of exercise, and use of illicit drugs or alcohol. Patients diagnosed with heart failure should watch for swelling in legs or abdomen, shortness of breath with activities, unexplained weight gain, difficult breathing when lying flat or waking from sleep, fatigue and loss of energy. Treatment plans are developed by physicians and other healthcare providers to manage symptoms with medications and lifestyle changes.

For more information about Conemaugh Memorial's CHF Nurse Navigator program, call (814) 534-1421.

About Conemaugh Health System
Conemaugh Health System, a member of Duke LifePoint Healthcare, is the largest healthcare provider in west central Pennsylvania, serving over a half-million patients each year through the Conemaugh Physician Group and Medical Staff, a network of hospitals, specialty clinics and patient focused programs. Conemaugh’s 4,500+ employees and 350+ physicians are committed to excellence and repeatedly earn state and national recognition for exceptional clinical outcomes.  Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, the system’s flagship hospital, provides sophisticated technology, the highest levels of trauma and neonatal intensive care and a committed history of training tomorrow’s physician, nurses and allied health providers.