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Taking Advanced Practice to Heart

Preparing APPs for new cardiovascular certification

Jessica Coviello and Tonya Page with a heart illustration

A new cardiovascular certification exam will debut this fall for advanced practice providers (APPs), and Cizik School of Nursing is offering an innovative self-paced series of courses to prepare test takers for success.

Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) can earn professional development contact hours while getting ready to take the Certified Cardiovascular Knowledge Examination (CCKE) offered by the American College of Cardiology®. The test will be offered for the first time in November 2023 and again in Spring 2024.

“The cardiologists in the Houston area are really driving this. They want to have advanced practice registered nurses who can hit the tarmac running,” said Cizik School of Nursing Professor Jessica Coviello, DNP, ANP-BC, associate dean of faculty development. Coviello is the Patricia L. Starck/PARTNERS Endowed Professor in Nursing and is widely published in the field of cardio-oncology.

Tonya Page, DNP, APRN, ACNP-BC, is director of advanced practice providers at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. She began planning for a cardiovascular program in January 2020. She was then an assistant professor at Cizik School of Nursing and was leading the adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner track in the Master of Science in Nursing program. Like so many other things, COVID-19 sidelined the project.

Page and Coviello see gaps when it comes to preparing NPs to work in cardiovascular units. New practitioners may complete clinical fellowships with little exposure to the needed didactic content, or they may require a long onboarding period to learn the specialty.

“Creating this robust cardiology training program will be helpful not only for institutions of higher education, but also for hospitals and health care organizations,” Page said.

The first series kicked off in February 2023 with a lecture by Mary-Ann Cyr, DNP, APRN, ACNP-BC, a senior lecturer at Yale University School of Nursing and a surgical critical care advanced practice nurse at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. The first 13 students got a general overview of cardiovascular care through 12 three-hour sessions. They participated virtually in real time or watched the recordings to earn 38 contact hours of nursing continuing professional development.* Recorded presentations will soon be available through Canvas Catalog for NPs and PAs to complete asynchronously at their own pace.

“We are planning to launch the second series of 10 two-hour courses this fall,” Coviello said. “These sessions will dig into specialty areas such as heart failure, congenital heart disease, and cardio-oncology.”

The new self-paced series can provide the didactic foundation for nurses new to the cardiology field or a refresher and best-practices update for experienced cardiovascular nurses. Advanced practice coursework isn’t required to take the CCKE, but it is advised, Coviello noted.

“As the field of cardiovascular medicine continues to rapidly evolve, there is an important need for highly skilled nurses and nurse practitioners with focused training in all aspects of cardiovascular care,” said Professor Richard W. Smalling, MD, PhD, director of interventional cardiology medicine, the James D. Woods Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine, and the Jay Brent Sterling Professor in Cardiovascular Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. “We felt that it was very important to develop a CV advanced practice provider program at Cizik School of Nursing to focus on honing the skills necessary for providing advanced cardiovascular care for our patients.”

*Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston is accredited as a provider of continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

Heart Disease in the U.S. (2021)

  • 695,000 deaths
  • 805,000 Heart attacks
  • Leading cause of death for most demographic groups

Source: National Center for Health Statistics

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