We are excited to announce the appointment of our new Empath Health Director of Cardiac Programs Janet Roman, DNP, RN, APRN, ACNP-BC, CHFN, ACHPN.
Dr. Roman will oversee the development and implementation of our new Heart Failure Home Care program for patients living with advanced cardiac disease. She will work together with our clinical and educational leaders to specially train cardiac teams for our care, with our community liaisons to educate regional cardiology groups about our cardiac programs, as well as with our palliative care team to incorporate clinical oversight and expertise for patients in our care.
“This is a comprehensive home-based program aimed at decreasing heart failure symptoms, decreasing hospitalizations and increasing quality of life for patients. It also brings peace of mind and additional support for families,” Dr. Roman explained.
Her unique wealth of expertise and experience includes developing cardiac disease management and palliative care programs for patients across acute and post-acute care, including at Abington-Jefferson Health System in Philadelphia and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in New Orleans. She also has spent many years doing research studies, teaching nurses, educating providers and working in nursing. She has a doctorate in nursing practice, board certification as an acute-care advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) and nursing certifications in advanced heart failure and advanced hospice and palliative care.
Read our Q&A to learn more about Dr. Roman and her vision for serving our community.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Philadelphia.
Who is in your family?
I am married. I am a mother of two college students, one in undergraduate studies finding his way, and one in medical school.
When did you arrive in Tampa Bay and join Empath Health?
We just got here in January this year. I have been here two weeks at Empath Health.
What is your government and military background?
I’ve worked for the federal government since I was 18 years old. I initially started in accounting, finance and processing military pay. I got curious about the military. I enlisted and served for six years in the Air Force. I served as a flight medic, flew from all over the world and helped transport injured soldiers back to the United States. My husband is Navy and my father is Army. I also served with the Department of Veterans Affairs for more than 30 years.
What drew you to the medical profession?
I’ve always wanted to go into the medical field. Being a medic and being able to help patients all over the world was my first professional job in this field. Seeing the impact that we made and that folks knew they were getting help, I knew I was in the right field. Nursing is my passion.
What are your educational achievements?
After the military I went back to school as a nurse. I earned a diploma in nursing from Helene Fuld School of Nursing, an associate in science degree from Camden County Community College, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in nursing from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and a doctorate in nursing practice from the inaugural class at Villanova University, where I was named the first African-American and first African-American female to graduate from this doctoral program.
What kind of care have you provided?
Very few of us are certified in both cardiac care and palliative care. I am an acute care nurse practitioner with years of working in the cardiac unit, seeing the heart failure patients not being able to get comfortable and offering them palliative care to help them through their disease process. It has been that strong cardiac background that has helped me have difficult conversations with patients.
What attracted you to Empath Health?
Conversations with Empath Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lawrence Kay, and Suncoast Hospice’s Medical Director, Dr. Jasmin Jerez-Marte. They shared my vision that this is a necessary program for our community. In the short period of time I’ve been here, there are no cardiac palliative care programs in this area, and there is a need. It is a privilege to be able to take both of my passions in my career and bridge them together to create a program for our community.
What is heart failure like for patients and how can palliative care help?
Cardiac disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. It beats cancer. This is not a disease of older people. There is a guy who is only 25 years old that I am going to see.
There’s no cure for heart failure, so with these patients we need to palliate (comfort) their symptoms. They need palliative care integrated into their everyday care to assist them on their cardiac journey.
It’s a physical event. Their number one distressing symptom is shortness of breath, and that causes anxiety, which then causes more shortness of breath. There also may be too much fluid, swelling in their ankles and swelling in their bellies. Shortness of breath usually is what leads them to the hospital because they are having trouble breathing.
How do you support patients and families?
Most patients don’t know there’s no cure for heart failure. I talk with patients when they are feeling their best. I talk openly and honestly. We tease out their goals of care. I ask questions like, “What do you want?” or “When do you want to be put on a breathing machine?” Those are discussions we have because when they go to the hospital they are at risk for that. My job is to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. I’m trained to identify subtle changes and to get them under control before they need to be hospitalized. My plan is to train the nurses on how to look for those subtle changes.
I make sure families understand the disease process and the management of symptoms. Sometimes they don’t understand that patients are tired and need a nap. They will push them to do a little more. Its (the heart’s) one job is to pump fluid forward, and if it can’t do that job then it’s failing. The patients’ disease is making them tired because they don’t have adequate blood flow. It’s also educating families about diet restrictions – patients can’t eat pork or other kinds of food. I explain that those indiscretions can make their disease spiral out of control. I also answer questions like, “What do we do if they have chest pain?”, “When do we need to go to the hospital?” or “When do we call 911?”
What do you do for fun and to take care of yourself?
I make sure that I stop working at a decent hour. For relaxation, I am a tea connoisseur and I am a scuba diver. I like to go for a deep dive. When I am under water, I collect my thoughts and I am all better.
What brings you joy?
Helping patients. Giving back to the community.
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