BACKGROUND: Monitoring the postoperative course of cardiac surgery patients remains essential but requires creative strategies now that length of hospitalization has been shortened to 5 days or less. OBJECTIVES: To determine patients' concerns in the early recovery period after open-heart surgery and to describe the impact of advanced practice nurses on this phase of recovery. METHOD: A cardiovascular clinical nurse specialist conducted follow-up by telephone for 342 cardiac surgery patients 7 to 14 days after discharge. Patients were asked both open-ended and direct questions. RESULTS: The major problems were leg edema (48%), appetite disturbance (35%), dyspnea (29%), sleep disturbance (12%), and wound drainage (9%). The nurse's interventions over the telephone included reassuring the patient about postoperative progress (86% of sample), giving diet information (31%), instructing about activity (29%), providing emotional support (25%), referring for medical treatment (16%), and explaining medications (13%). In response to these findings, the nursing practice council revised postoperative teaching to emphasize wound healing, sleep, and appetite issues. CONCLUSIONS: Telephone monitoring of cardiac surgery patients after early discharge can alleviate the often stressful transition to postoperative recovery at home. A cardiovascular clinical nurse specialist can provide patients and patients' family members with reassurance and ongoing reinforcement of the discharge information.

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