If you have heart failure, you will meet with different providers. Understanding the roles each one plays will help you manage care with confidence. Here are some you may encounter:
Cardiologist: Also known as a “heart doctor.” This provider diagnoses and treats heart problems. You may have several different types of heart doctors, including a specialist in heart failure and in heart rhythm. Cardiologists will work with nurse practitioners and nurses to care for you.
Primary care provider: This provider is the person you see for routine health care. Even if you have a cardiologist, your primary care provider remains your main contact for general health.
Nurse or nurse care manager: These individuals are trained in cardiology care. They can work closely with your cardiologist or primary care provider. This may be the person to contact if you need a medication refill or have a question.
Physical therapists and occupational therapists: These experts in movement and activity can help you figure out how to stay safe while being active and improve your strength and movement. They also play an important role in cardiac rehabilitation.
Registered dietitian: These providers are the experts on heart-healthy eating. They may be able to help you develop a meal plan that suits your tastes and budget.
Mental health provider: It’s normal to feel stressed, anxious, or even depressed when dealing with a health issue like heart failure. Therapists can give you tools to help cope.
Social worker: This role may also be played by a case manager. Having a health condition like heart failure can create financial, legal, and other issues. Social workers can help connect you with the right resources to make it through any challenges.
Pharmacist: This provider is your point person when it comes to meds. They will know if certain drugs interact with other drugs or foods. They can also help you understand how to take your meds.
Your primary care or heart doctor may send you to other specialists or surgeons. If you’re unsure of why you’re being sent to a provider, don’t be afraid to ask. Your providers are there to help you.