SVN: A Special Vein of Nursing

  • Article by: Laura French
  • Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • October 21, 2009 - 3:22 PM

"Generally speaking, peripheral vascular disease is considered the stepchild of cardiovascular disease, yet the complications of vascular disease can be just as devastating and life-threatening," says Rita C. Clark, President of the Society for Vascular Nursing (SVN). While some of the Society's members are also cardiac nurses, the goal of the 27-year-old organization is to focus on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases affecting the arterial, venous and lymphatic systems.

Members of SVN work in specialty areas such as wound care clinics, lymphedema clinics, vein clinics, coagulation clinics and interventional cardiology/radiology centers as well as in hospital settings, physician offices and academic institutions, Clark says. They provide traditional wound care as well as advanced therapies like hyperbaric oxygen and circulator boot therapy. Advanced practice nurses may provide primary care for patients with vascular diseases focusing on risk factor modifications, such management of diabetes, high blood pressure and high lipid levels, as well as smoking cessation, exercise and weight loss. Nurse educators with vascular nursing experience bring first-hand knowledge and expertise to the classroom.

Advances In Treatment

In addition to advances in wound care, Clark says, vascular nursing is changing as minimally invasive procedures are used to repair aortic aneurysms and to open up narrowed arteries supplying blood flow to the legs or vital organs such as the brain, kidneys, liver and gut. Advances in vascular imaging, such as CT angiography and MR angiography, and advances in medical devices have revolutionized endovascular treatment options.

Members of the SVN have education levels from associate's and bachelor's degrees through master's degrees and Ph.D's. One of the association's goals is more inclusion of vascular content in nursing schools. "As our society ages, the incidence of risk factors such as diabetes and obesity increases. We need to have educated nurses capable of taking care of our vascular patients, many of whom have multiple, complex medical problems," says Clark.

Because they are a small organization, they partner with other organizations like the P.A.D. Coalition, the Vascular Disease Foundation, the Venous Disease Coalition and the Coalition to Prevent DVT to help heighten awareness of vascular disease and to effect public policy. For example, SVN and its partner organizations are working on Medicare and insurance reimbursement for vascular rehabilitation to lessen the symptoms of claudication (muscle cramps and fatigue in the legs with walking) and help patients gain walking distance and attain a higher activity level.

Certification And Education

The Association offers a cardiovascular nurse certification exam through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Workshops held in conjunction with the Association's annual convention help nurses to prepare for the exam.

The Association's Education Committee has also developed materials for patient education and preceptor education for experienced vascular nurses who mentor newcomers to the field. The Research Committee offers research grants to members doing research to fulfill graduate course work requirements and to advanced practice and Ph.D. nurses for their research activities.

The Association recently published a clinical practice guideline for endovascular repair of abdominal aortic aneurysm in their journal, the "Journal of Vascular Nursing." A guideline for carotid artery disease will be published later this year. The Mayo Clinic, where Clark works, has a multidisciplinary vascular center and a dedicated surgical intensive care and nursing unit at the hospital. However, many nurses working in private practice settings and non-academic institutions are taking care of vascular patients along with a diverse group of medical and surgical patients. No matter the setting, "A lot of education is needed - continuing as well as primary," Clark says.

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Laura French is principal of Words Into Action, Inc., and is a freelance writer from Roseville.

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