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Published on January 10, 2014

MidMichigan Nurse Practitioner Trained at UMHS Now Establishes Heart Failure Clinic

Jennifer Dankers, F.N.P.-B.C.Last year, Jennifer Dankers, F.N.P.-B.C., a MidMichigan Physicians Group nurse practitioner specializing in congestive heart failure, began collaborating with the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) to develop a comprehensive heart failure clinic at MidMichigan Health. MidMichigan’s clinic, which is currently in its pilot stage, is based on best practices from UMHS and treats patients suffering from chronic congestive heart failure. The program is designed to assist patients in monitoring responses to treatment, modifying behaviors, adjusting medications and linking with cardiologists and primary care providers.

According to Dankers, the concept of a designated clinic for the care of heart failure patients has been studied over the last several years and found to be integral for achieving better patient outcomes. Additionally, patients who participate in heart failure clinics have been found to live longer and spend less time in the hospital.

“As part of the planning phase for our clinic, I was able to personally collaborate with the UMHS Heart Failure and Heart Transplant Program and the Center for Circulatory Support to gain insight into the intricate layers of their successful heart failure clinic model,” said Dankers. I was also able to gain valuable insight into the UMHS model of care for hospitalized heart failure patients.”

The continuum of care for heart failure ranges from home to the patient clinic to the hospital to the procedure and operating rooms. The UMHS Center for Circulatory Support provided Dankers with experience both in the hospital-setting and at the outpatient follow-up clinic. There she was able to observe the processes and care of advanced heart failure patients with ventricular assist devices or artificial heart pumps.

“During my training at UMHS, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside Heart Failure Cardiologist Maryse Palardy, M.D., and nurse practitioner Debra Jeffries, M.S., F.P.-B.C.,” said Dankers. “I also rounded with Surgical Director of Adult Cardiac Transplantation Francis Pagani, M.D., Ph.D., Ventricular Assist Device Coordinator Rena Lucier, R.N., M.S., and Advanced Practice Professional Kevin Knott, M.S., P.A.-C. This team provided me with the opportunity to view the process from patient teaching to patient preparation for ventricular assist device (VAD) surgery and even allowed me to observe a VAD placement open heart surgery. This experience and the connections made during my visit will serve to streamline care for MidMichigan heart failure patients with advanced heart failure who require advanced therapies at UMHS.”

Additionally, Dankers spent time visiting the UMHS outpatient Heart Failure Clinic with Todd Koelling, M.D., medical director of heart failure and co-director of the Heart Failure and Heart Transplantation Management Program. He provided her with the opportunity to study the outpatient process of the clinic and review UMHS patient-care protocols. During the visit, she was able to see the RN telemanagement heart failure program. This program works to manage patients at home with close symptom, medication, and laboratory follow-up in an effort to provide excellent heart failure care and keep patients well.

“My experience with the UMHS Heart Failure Program has been influential for the start-up of MidMichigan’s Heart Failure Clinic,” added Dankers. “In addition, the connections made during these visits will support the structure of our new clinic now and into the future.”

MidMichigan was piloting its Heart Failure Clinic with MidMichigan Physicians Group cardiology and hospitalist patients, but the clinic is now open to referrals from all providers.

MidMichigan Health offers a full array of heart and vascular services, including open heart surgery, vascular surgery, electrophysiology for heart rhythm problems and advanced interventional procedures. Those who would like additional information on Jennifer Dankers and other members of MidMichigan’s comprehensive cardiovascular team may visit www.midmichigan.org/heart