Barbara Riegel

Barbara Riegel, PhD, RN, FAAN, FAHA

Professor Emerita

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Annually, one in every four deaths is due to heart disease. Through her extensive research into self-care practices of older adults with heart failure—their behaviors, their adherence to medication regimens, and their ability to understand and manage their symptoms— Barbara Riegel has learned that patients who don’t get involved in their care have extremely poor quality of life and die earlier than patients who manage their care. 

Beginning when she was a clinical nurse researcher in an acute care setting and continuing since then, Dr. Riegel has created a rich body of evidence aimed at helping older adults with heart failure enjoy a high quality of life in their own homes. Her work includes development of the Self-Care of Heart Failure Index and numerous other psychometrically sound instruments. These instruments are available on her website: She has received support from her research from NIH, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, private foundations, and other funders.

I study ways to help older adults with chronic cardiovascular disease to take better care of themselves. Much of my work has been in heart failure, but these patients rarely have only heart failure, so my recent work has extended to multiple chronic conditions. In addition, I have a strong commitment to mentoring.


  • PhD, University of California at Los Angeles, 1991 
  • MN, University of California at Los Angeles, 1983 
  • BSN, San Diego State University, 1981

Social Justice

Dr. Riegel continues to work closely with prior doctoral trainees to publish on the impact of social determinants of health on self-care and clinical outcomes. She also conducts research and publishes with global collaborators.


Dr. Riegel continues to advise doctoral students on their research and to sponsor mentees applying for research funding. She is actively involved in advising students, post-doctoral fellows, and colleagues in conducting their own research.


Dr. Riegel’s current projects address self-care, defined broadly to include treatment adherence (e.g. medication adherence), symptom monitoring and perception, and symptom management. Her newest project focuses on promoting self-care among caregivers of adults with chronic heart failure. She is the Primary Investigator of an on-going study of a virtual intervention designed to promote self-care among caregivers of adults with heart failure. She maintains numerous international collaborations with colleagues in Sweden, Australia, Hong Kong, Brazil, and beyond. These collaborations are facilitated through her International Center for Self-Care Research:

Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing

Dr. Riegel moved to Penn Nursing in 2002. Penn Nursing’s dedication to using research to affect policy and practice, and the willingness of faculty to collaborate in interdisciplinary teaching and research, were a big draw for Dr. Riegel.  All schools are within easy walking distance of each other. Dr. Riegel collaborates primarily with colleagues in the School of Medicine (Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics; the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology; and the UPHS Heart Failure Program).

Selected Career Highlights

  • Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame, Sigma Theta Tau International  
  • Distinguished Scientist Award, American Heart Association  
  • Kathleen A. Dracup Lecturer in Exemplary Early Career Mentoring Award, American Heart Association and the Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing 
  • President’s Award for Research on Chronic Disease Management and Impact of Nursing in Promoting Self-Care, Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research 

Accepting Mentees?

  • No

Accepting Fellows?

  • No

Selected Publications

  • Yu DSF, De Maria M, Barbaranelli C, Vellone E, Matarese M, Ausili D, Rabelo-Silva ER, Osokpo OH, Riegel B. Cross-cultural applicability of the Self-Care Self-Efficacy Scale in a multi-national study. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2021; 77:681-692.* DOI:10.1111/jan.14617

  • Riegel B, Dunbar SB, Fitzsimons D, Freedland K, Lee CS, Middleton S, Stromberg A, Webber D, Vellone E, Jaarsma T. Self-care research: Where are we now? Where are we going? International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2021; 103402. [published online ahead of print, 2019 Aug 23] PMID: 31630807. PMCID: PMC7035984. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2019.103402.

  • Riegel B, Westland H, Iovino P, Barelds I, Bruins Slot J, Stawnychy MA, Osokpo O, Tarbi E, Trappenburg JCA, Vellone E, Stromberg A, Jaarsma T. Characteristics of Self-Care Interventions for Patients with a Chronic Condition: A Scoping Review. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2021; 103713. [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jul 15] PMID: 32768137. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2020.103713

  • Jaarsma T, Stromberg A, Dunbar SB, Fitzsimons D, Lee CS, Middleton S, Vellone E, Freedland K, Riegel B. Self-care research: How to grow the evidence base. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2020; 105:103555. PMID: 32199150. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2020.103555

  • Riegel B, Jaarsma T, Lee CS, Stromberg A. Integrating Symptoms into the Middle-Range Theory of Self-Care of Chronic Illness. Advances in Nursing Science, 2019, 42(3), 206-215. PMID: 30475237. PMCID: PMC6686959. DOI: 10.1097/ANS.0000000000000237.

  • Riegel B, Hanlon A, Coe NB, Hirschman KB, Thomas G, Stawnychy M, Wald JW, Bowles KH. Health Coaching to Improve Self-Care of Informal Caregivers of Adults with Chronic Heart Failure – iCare4Me: Study Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial. Contemporary Clinical Trials. 2019; 85:105845. PMID: 31499227. PMCID: PMC6815729. DOI: 10.1016/j.cct.2019.105845

  • Lee, S & Riegel B. State of the Science in Heart Failure Symptom Perception Research: An Integrative Review. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 2018, May/Jun;33(3):204-210. DOI: 10.1097/JCN.0000000000000445.

  • Riegel B, Barbaranelli C, Kristen A. Sethares KA, Daus M, Moser DK, Miller JL, Haedtke C, Feinberg JL, Lee S, Stromberg A, Jaarsma T. Development and Initial Testing of the Self-Care of Chronic Illness Inventory. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2018, 74:2465-2476. DOI: 10.1111/jan.13775

  • Riegel B, Barbaranelli C, Carlson B, Sethares KA, Daus M, Moser DK, Miller J, Osokpo OH, Lee S, Brown S, Vellone E. Psychometric Testing of the Revised Self-Care of Heart Failure Index, Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 2018, 34(2), 183-102, 2019. DOI: 10.1097/JCN.0000000000000543

  • Riegel, B., Jaarsma, T., & Stromberg, A. (2012). A middle-range theory of self-care of chronic illness. Advances in Nursing Science, 35(3), 194-204. PMID: 22739426. DOI: 10.1097/ANS.0b013e318261b1ba

View all publications

Related Stories

Improving Quality of Life and Sleep in People with Memory Problems Without Using Drugs

A groundbreaking study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), recently published in Innovation in Aging, has shown promising results in improving the quality of life (QOL) and sleep quality in individuals living with memory problems. The research delves into the efficacy of a nonpharmacological approach in a trial known as the Healthy Patterns Sleep Program.

Read MoreImproving Quality of Life and Sleep in People with Memory Problems Without Using Drugs

Nurses Innovating in Practice

As the covid pandemic challenged health care systems around the world, Penn Medicine nurses at the school of nursing’s academic practice partner facilities drew on their creativity and limitless capacity for evidence-driven risk to quickly test and implement new solutions. Constrained resources, an unknown virus, evolving standards—that didn’t stop these professionals (many of them Penn alumni). Here, five stories of how they innovated in patient care and in their practice and inspired us all.

Read MoreNurses Innovating in Practice