Congestive heart failure, often referred to as CHF, is a long-term failure of the heart as it gradually weakens. The walls of the heart often thin out, and the heart muscle itself becomes weaker, eventually unable to pump blood throughout the body as it needs to do. High blood pressure, coronary artery disease and a variety of other heart and blood vessel conditions may gradually cause this condition. However, the most important point for you to consider as you care for patients with this diagnosis is how you can most effectively help them regain their health and avoid sudden death, which become increasingly common with severe CHF.

Recognize Risks for Critical Care Hospitalizations

Some patients with CHF are at increased for exacerbations of their symptoms, particularly if they’re dealing with other underlying conditions. As a wise health care practitioner, you should take each of these concerns into account every time you have contact with the patient.

If you’re providing emergency care, be sure to look at the entire picture rather than only one or two obvious symptoms with which the patient presents. For example, if your patient has untreated high blood pressure, does not follow his medication regimen religiously, drinks alcohol or smokes excessively or has an underlying infection, you must provide prompt cardiovascular support because of his weakened condition.

Recognize Early Warning Signs

One of the best and earliest care practices that you can use for your patients with CHF is continual measurements and regular assessments. When you have a baseline for your patient, you’ll be able to recognize changes more easily and quickly, and you’ll then be able to get your patient life-saving treatments more rapidly. Patients who are suddenly more symptomatic, such as who have great swelling in the feet and ankles, extreme fatigue and shortness of breath with nearly any movement, are at increased risk of needing to be admitted to a critical care unit or of needing emergency transportation from their homes.


Although it may seem too basic, patient education is vital for successful outcomes particularly when dealing with chronic problems that are particularly hazardous to one’s health. As a health care practitioner, you have a great well of knowledge to which your patient simply does not have access. By taking your knowledge and simplifying it for your patient’s understanding, you can help the individual take better care of himself at home. In particular, focus on educating your patient on medications, follow-up care, daily diet, alcohol intake and smoking cessation. Education is one of the easiest and cheapest ways that you can care for your patients.

Be Prepared for the Worst

Although you’re certainly hoping that the above measures nip any problems in the bud, you may still find yourself with a noncompliant or a very sick patient who requires emergency care. A major risk with severe CHF is for sudden cardiac arrest. By getting your ACLS certification, you will be prepared to handle such emergency measures as CPR, checking for a shockable rhythm, defibrillating and administering emergency medications if possible.

By following these research-driven best care practices, you can help your patients who have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure to avoid sudden or prolonged problems and to live their best possible lives. As a health care practitioner, your goal is to keep your eyes and ears open constantly to recognize changes in your patient’s health status. Thus, you can provide quick and effective care using medications, lifestyle changes or even ACLS protocols if the case demands it.

If you’re interested in becoming a better healthcare professional, or need to renew your certification, check out our course offerings now. We provide both ACLS initial and ACLS renewal certification, with convenient locations in Oakland and Sacramento.