The health-care teams for children with heart disease

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Learn about health-care teams committed to treating children with heart conditions. The specific role of each member is discussed.

Key points

  • Health-care professionals who treat children with congenital heart conditions usually work in teams: a medical and surgical team, a nursing team, various health-care professionals and some sort of family support team.
  • It can be difficult to tell who each member on your health-care team is and what they do. Do not hesitate to ask any member of the team who they are and any other questions about your child's care.

If your child is being treated for a heart condition, they will be receiving care from a number of health-care professionals, including those on medical and surgical, nursing, and family support teams. These people are very skilled and caring individuals, who are committed to family-centred care and respecting the individual needs of the child and the family.

How do you tell who's who at the hospital?

It can be very difficult to tell by the clothes health-care professionals wear what they do at the hospital. Many health-care professionals wear scrubs or white coats, not just nurses and doctors. But all hospital staff are required to wear identification badges that include their name and their area of specialty. If you're not sure what somebody does, don't be afraid to ask them.

The health-care professionals who will look after your child usually work in teams. There will be a medical and surgical team, a nursing team, various other health-care professionals, and, depending on the hospital, some sort of family support team. These teams generally include the following people:

Medical and surgical teams

  • cardiologist: a staff doctor who specializes in caring for the heart
  • heart or cardiovascular surgeon: a staff surgeon who specializes in heart surgery
  • cardiovascular surgery fellow or resident: a qualified doctor training to become a cardiac surgeon
  • cardiology fellow: a qualified paediatrician training to become a cardiologist
  • paediatric resident: a qualified doctor training to become a paediatrician
  • advanced practice nurse (APN): a registered nurse with advanced education in caring for children who have cardiac defects or surgery

Nursing team

  • registered nurse: a nurse who provides direct care to your child at the bedside
  • clinical support nurse: a registered nurse who assists nurses in caring for your child
  • team leader: a registered nurse who leads the team of nurses caring for your child
  • clinical leader: a registered nurse who coordinates daily activities on the unit
  • child health services director

Other health-care professionals

  • physiotherapist: this person may be involved in assessing your child’s activity level, and how they are developing
  • occupational therapist: this person also looks at your child’s development, and can also help with any feeding issues
  • pharmacist: the pharmacist can answer questions about medicines
  • dietitian: dietitians know a lot about healthy eating, and can make sure your child is getting enough nutrition
  • child life specialist: these professionals look at how children are coping and developing, and use methods like therapeutic play to help

Family support team

Many feelings and stresses can come up when your child is in the hospital. Along with your child’s illness, you may have problems dealing with a complex hospital system. The family support team can help you to cope. They may include:

  • advanced practice nurse (APN): a registered nurse who specializes in caring for children with heart conditions and their families
  • social workers: specialists in counselling, therapy, and in finding resources
  • chaplains: members of the clergy who perform religious services for the hospital

If you would like to meet one of these team members, please tell your child’s nurse. Other support people are also available if you need them.

What is your role on the team?

It is important for families to be a part of planning for how their children are cared for. If you have questions or concerns about your child, please feel free to ask any member of the team. They will make sure you get an update, or will arrange for you to speak with a doctor or other suitable team member.

Last updated: December 4th 2009