Stroke Patients Benefit from the Right Care at the Right Moment

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.

An 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 designations. 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 Brunswick or Camden Campus.”

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.