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Preparing for the Worst While Hoping for the Best: The Relevance of Hope in the Heart Failure Illness Trajectory

Davidson, Patricia M. RN, BA, MEd, PhD; Dracup, Kathleen RN, DNSc; Phillips, Jane RN, BAppSci; Daly, John RN, BA, BHSc, MEd(Hons), PhD; Padilla, Geraldine PhD

Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing: May-June 2007 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - p 159-165
doi: 10.1097/01.JCN.0000267821.74084.72

Background: Patients with heart failure have higher mortality rates than those with most malignant diseases. The heart failure illness trajectory is one of gradual decline characterized by unpredictable events such as acute decompensation of heart failure or a sudden cardiac death. Health professionals have an obligation to give patients and their families concise and honest information concerning their prognosis. The challenge exists to give what ostensibly may seem a bleak prognosis within a context of hope and optimism.

Aim: To explore the role of hope in heart disease and the potential utility of this construct in the development of nursing interventions.

Methods: The electronic databases CINAHL, MEDLINE, EmBASE, and PSYCHlit were searched from 1982 to August 2004 using the key words "hope," "hopelessness," "heart disease," and "heart failure." Articles were subsequently sorted to meet the inclusion criteria of (1) a philosophical discussion of the construct of hope and/or (2) investigation of hope in heart disease.

Results: This search retrieved 768 articles, and 24 met the inclusion criteria. Key findings from the review indicate that "hope" and "hopelessness" are underdeveloped, yet important constructs and conceptually linked with depression and spirituality. Intriguing findings from descriptive, observational studies have demonstrated the positive impact of expression of hope on cardiovascular outcomes. These findings need to be validated in randomized controlled trials.

Conclusions: This critical literature review has determined that "hope" is strongly associated with the individual's future orientation. Increased understanding of this concept may assist in refining patient-focused interventions and developing therapeutic strategies to enhance hope.

Patricia M. Davidson, RN, BA, MEd, PhD Associate Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing, University of Western Sydney, and Sydney West Area Health Service, Sydney, Australia.

Kathleen Dracup, RN, DNSc Dean and Professor, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, Calif.

Jane Phillips, RN, BAppSci Doctoral Candidate, School of Nursing, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

John Daly, RN, BA, BHSc, MEd(Hons), PhD Professor of Nursing and Foundation Head, School of Nursing, University of Western Sydney, Sydney NSW, Sydney, Australia.

Geraldine Padilla, PhD Associate Dean for Research, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, Calif.

The authors acknowledge the support of the National Health and Medical Research Grant 219152 for this project.

Corresponding author Patricia M. Davidson, RN, BA, MEd, PhD, School of Nursing, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia (e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.