Cardiovascular Clinical Competencies 2020: The Foundation

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The new 2020 ACC Clinical Competencies for Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants in Adult Cardiovascular Medicine led the way in laying down a foundation to build our practice and enhance our value within the cardiovascular team.

These competencies define exactly what knowledge and skills are necessary to treat patients under our care. In order to address the need for nationally recognized core competencies, a writing council was formed at the request of the ACC Cardiovascular Team Section Leadership Council.

This writing team consisted of cardiologists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The document was extensively reviewed by members of the ACC, members of key professional organizations, and content and peer reviewers.

The document contains 11 topic areas identifying knowledge and skills for generalized practice and subspecialty practice. Pick a topic and review the competencies. Listed are those competencies that are required for generalized cardiovascular experience and those for advanced training in subspecialty areas.

For example, all cardiovascular nurse practitioners and physician assistants should know the pharmacology, indications, contraindications and side effects of antiarrhythmic medications.

Core Competencies
Acute Coronary Syndromes
Adult Congenital Heart Disease
Ambulatory and Consultative Care Cardiology
Cardiac Arrhythmias and Electrophysiology
Cardiovascular Disease Prevention
Critical Care Cardiology
Heart Failure
Pericardial Disease
Stable Ischemic Heart Disease
Valvular Heart Disease
Vasular Medicine

However, if you are interested in specializing in electrophysiology, then you would be expected to have deeper knowledge such as knowing the indications, risks, and benefits for electrophysiology studies and catheter ablations.

There are many applications for these competencies in our clinical practice, including self-assessment for professional growth and standardization of post-graduate cardiovascular training and specialty certificates, as well as continuing education development and practice improvement initiatives. Take a look at which topics you may need to brush up on.

The ACC has long recognized the value of nurse practitioners and physician assistants in providing better patient outcomes and satisfaction and enhancing the efficiency of cardiologists. We were welcomed into the ACC as part of the Cardiovascular Team Section in 2003.

The ACC has provided us a pathway for professional recognition with the designations of Associate (AACC) and Fellow (FACC). The new clinical competencies are the next step in unifying our core knowledge and skills to advance our role in the cardiovascular team-based care model.

Let's see what the future brings for our profession.

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This article was authored by Kate Morgan, RN, MSN, ACNP-BC, CHFN, AACC, cardiology nurse practitioner at WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Cary, NC.