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September 25, 2007 > Stroke Program Awarded Prestigious Certification

Stroke Program Awarded Prestigious Certification

Level of Care Begins Before Patients Even Reach the Hospital

Have you ever thought about what you would do if you or a loved one had a stroke? Most of us don't think about it much. But your local community hospital has.
On Sept. 11, Washington Hospital was awarded the Gold Seal of Approval(tm) from The Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers upon passing an on-site review in July.
What does this certification mean to patients in the Tri-City area? It means that their care has been thought out from the moment emergency medical services respond to after they leave the hospital and begin the recovery process.
"I think the program's certification tells patients that there is a really organized system of care in place," says Washington Hospital's Stroke Program Coordinator Doug Van Houten, R.N. "Our program is comprehensive enough to be a center of excellence for stroke care, which is realistically a bigger commitment than most hospitals can make."
He adds that, "The truth is that stroke isn't some rare condition; this is the No. 1 cause of serious long-term disability in our country. The leadership team and board of directors at this hospital understood that this needed to be a priority for the community. Interestingly, in most communities where there is a primary certified stroke center, the emergency medical responders tend to bring patients to those hospitals rather than hospitals that are geographically closer based on the level of care patients receive."
Each year, according to the Joint Commission, about 700,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke, which represents the country's third leading cause of death. On average, someone suffers a stroke every 45 seconds and someone else dies of a stroke every 3.1 minutes.
There are 4.7 million stroke survivors living in the United States today and many struggle with stroke-related disabilities ranging from mild to so incapacitating that they must remain in long-term care facilities for daily care.

Covering all the bases for better care

Given that stroke has such dire long-term effects on its potential victims, Washington Hospital has mobilized its entire staff, as well as local emergency responders, such as firefighters and paramedics, through educational programs and specific protocols to follow when it comes to stroke as a way to maximize outcomes and minimize stroke-related deaths and disability.
To become a Primary Stroke Center, Washington Hospital had to meet strict requirements set down by the Joint Commission, which according to Van Houten, included:
* Building specialized stroke care units staffed by specially trained stroke nurses
* Employing special order sets and making sure standard protocols were in place
* Training for every employee involved in stroke care, from radiology to lab work
* Developing a program for a comprehensive Community Education Series focusing on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and life after stroke
* Launching a stroke support group following patients recovery from stroke
* Providing special neuroscience education to hospital staff, local emergency medical services personnel and students focusing on stroke
"We don't just stop at treating stroke in the hospital, but we also provide education to prevent it and follow up afterwards," Van Houten says.

Time is of the essence

Additionally, the Stroke Program's staff studies and reviews data collected to continuously identify new means to improve response times and outcomes for patients. Standards are specific and the protocols ensure that stroke patients are identified as quickly as possible and receive the appropriate medications - such as clot-dissolving drugs and anti-coagulants as soon as possible.
When it comes to stroke, according to Van Houten, time is always of the essence. A patient whose gratitude spurred him to write a letter of thanks to the Stroke Program's staff made the best illustration of this, he says.
After suffering a moderate stroke Friday, Feb. 16, of this year, the man returned home by Sunday, Feb. 18. In his letter, he stated he was "over 98% recovered today, Thursday February 22, 2007" thanks to the care he received from members of the hospital's Stroke Program.
Van Houten says the program's certification by the Joint Commission has been an enormous achievement for the hospital, stroke program staff members and him personally, given the amount of time and effort that has gone into making the program what it is today.

Program's achievement sets it apart

"For me, it's one of the biggest professional goals in my life; we really raised the bar and we had to do an awful lot to get it in place," he says. "Our program is meeting standards that only 384 hospitals out of at least 5,500 hospitals nationwide have been able to reach."
But given all of the hard work to achieve this level of excellence in care, Van Houten says his main goal is still not to see you in the emergency room for stroke.
What he really wants people to know before a stroke ever happens is this: "Stroke is almost completely preventable. Take high blood pressure seriously, lower your total cholesterol, don't smoke, treat your diabetes appropriately, keep your weight under control - do these things and you can for the most part prevent strokes. It seems kind of ironic, but it's a whole lot more preventable than most things. Prevention is really attainable when it comes to stroke."
To learn more about the Stroke Program at Washington Hospital, visit, click on "Services & Programs," select "Taylor McAdam Bell Neuroscience Institute" and choose "Stroke Program" from the drop-down menu.

Learn About Stroke

If you haven't taken advantage of Washington Hospital's Stroke Education Series, now is the time to join Stroke Program Medical Director Ash Jain, M.D. and Stroke Program Coordinator Doug Van Houten, R.N. for an introduction to stroke and explanation of risk factors.

WHAT: Introduction - STROKE/Risk Factors for Stroke
WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 2, 6 to 8 p.m.
WHERE: Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Ave., Fremont
CALL: (800) 963-7070

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