Heart failure is a condition in which the heart muscle cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for oxygen and nutrients. If your child has been diagnosed with heart failure, he or she will have a team of medical professionals who specialize in pediatric cardiac care.
A pediatric heart failure care team may consist of the following medical professionals, among others:
- Pediatric cardiologists. Pediatric cardiologists are physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating heart problems in babies and children. Depending on your child’s treatment needs, he or she may remain under the care of a general cardiologist, or you may work with that cardiologist in conjunction with a pediatric interventional cardiologist (who specializes in cardiovascular procedures performed via a thin tube called a catheter) or a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon.
- Pediatrician. A pediatrician evaluates child patients for overall health and treats illnesses. Your child’s pediatrician will retain a central role in your child’s heart failure care, coordinating services with other members of the care team.
- Clinical nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Clinical nurse practitioners have advanced training and can practice medicine with or without physician supervision (depending on the law in a state). Physician assistants are licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. Both medical professionals provide care by performing exams and some types of procedures, taking medical histories, ordering diagnostic tests and treatments, making diagnoses, prescribing medications and making referrals to other specialists. These professionals will often be your point of contact for reporting heart failure warning signs that your child may be experiencing.
- Clinical nurse specialists and other nurses. Your child will be cared for by a range of other nurses while being treated for heart failure. Some of these nurses will have a clinical specialization specifically in pediatric heart failure care. These nurses will be valuable members of the heart failure care team.
- Mental health professionals and child life specialists. Psychologists, counselors and child life specialists can provide individual and group counseling for you and your child and help to identify support groups.
- Social workers. These professionals can help you navigate financial, insurance and legal aspects of your child’s care.
- Pharmacists. We often overlook one of the most important members of our healthcare team—our pharmacist. In addition to filling prescriptions for medication, your pharmacist can answer questions about drug interactions, insurance, generic medications, and much more.
You and the other members of your child’s family are among the most valuable members of your child’s heart failure care team. Don't hesitate to ask questions of your child’s healthcare providers. Be sure to take advantage of the care team resources who are available to you to help you develop plans for safe physical activity and good nutrition for your child, and to help you navigate the healthcare system to be sure your child’s and your family’s needs are being met.
Part of your role as a member of your own healthcare team is to ask questions. This list of questions for your child’s physician can help you get started.