When Janice Griffin, LPN, started her shift one Wednesday morning at the
Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus, she stopped by a patient’s bedside. The octogenarian seemed fine.
When Ms. Griffin checked on her a bit later, “Something was off;
nothing too alarming, but after reviewing her labs, I checked on her again,”
Ms. Griffin says. This time, Ms. Griffin saw a “blank stare, drooping
face and arm.” She initiated a “Code Stroke,” setting
off an immediate set of actions.
Emergency Care Center nurse rushed to the patient’s room and whisked her off for a CT
scan. Next, a Baptist Health neurologist evaluated the patient via videoconferencing
technology, along with hospital staff. Because of conscientious care and
the Health System’s Telestroke partnership with Baptist Health Jacksonville,
the stroke team expedited her diagnosis. Fortunately, with the swift thinking
on Ms. Griffin’s part, the patient was able to regain her speech
and the ability to recognize her son. “Her son thanked me for saving
his mom,” Ms. Griffin says.
A Patient’s Best Advocate
The experience reminded Ms. Griffin, a relatively new nurse, to pay close
attention to bedside shift reports. “It gives patients the best
chance of surviving a stroke. If you have a bad feeling, speak up. You
are your patient’s number one advocate.”
The Health System’s Stroke Program Coordinator Cynthia Gahm, R.N.
agrees. “Our staff’s skill was a big part of our stroke care
The Joint Commission evaluated our stroke program and staff training to ensure that we followed
best practices. Our Remote Treatment Stroke Center designation tells EMS
it’s safe to bring stroke patients to our
In Fall 2021, after rigorous evaluations, The Joint Commission designated
the Brunswick Campus as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center and the Camden
Campus as an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital. Becoming designated requires
a streamlined stroke care protocol inside and outside the hospital. Paramedics
communicate with hospital stroke teams while they transport a patient.
Upon arrival at the Emergency Care Center, “We track patients from
the second they arrive. Our ER doctors and nurses do a quick assessment,
then get them to the CT scanner,” Ms. Gahm says. A Baptist Health
Jacksonville neurologist assesses the patient and communicates with hospital
staff through a video call. They then decide whether a patient can stay
at the Health System or if they should receive care in Jacksonville.
BE FAST for Better Outcomes
To decrease the chance of disability or death, patients who suffer an ischemic
stroke must receive a clot-busting drug within four and a half hours of
symptoms starting. “We’ve decreased our door-to-needle goal
from 60 to 45 minutes. Our staff get excited about improving stroke treatment
knowing they can really impact patient outcomes,” Ms. Gahm says.
To recognize a stroke, nurses learn the BE FAST protocol:
Balance: Watch for a sudden loss of balance.
Eyes: Check for vision loss.
Face: Look for an uneven smile.
Arm: Check if one arm is weak.
Speech: Listen for slurred speech.
Time: Call 9-1-1 right away.
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, call 9-1-1. “It
helps if we know when a patient’s symptoms started. If you can,
bring someone to the hospital with you who can speak for you,” Ms.
Gahm says. Ms. Griffin adds, “You know your body and you recognize
when something is off. We’d rather you come to the hospital than
wait.” Knowing our hometown hospitals provide quality stroke care
is reassuring. “No matter the department, everyone works as a team.
That’s important for the patient,” Ms. Griffin says.