High-acuity, progressive care, and critical care nurses often provide care for patients with heart failure during an exacerbation of acute disease or at the end of life. Identifying and managing heart failure symptoms is complex and requires early recognition and early intervention. Because symptoms of heart failure are not disease specific, patients may not respond to them appropriately, resulting in treatment delays. This article reviews the complexities and issues surrounding the patient’s ability to recognize heart failure symptoms and the critical care nurse’s role in facilitating early intervention. It outlines the many barriers to symptom recognition and response, including multimorbidities, age, symptom intensity, symptom escalation, and health literacy. The influence of self-care on heart failure management is also described. The critical care nurse plays a crucial role in teaching heart failure patients to identify and respond appropriately to their symptoms, thus promoting early intervention.

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