Primary Stroke Center at Saint Joseph’s Receives Joint Commission Certification

November 10, 2009

Atlanta, GA- Saint Joseph’s Hospital recently received the Joint Commission’s Certificate of Distinction for its primary stroke center. The certification recognizes centers making exceptional efforts to foster better patient outcomes for stroke care. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., often causing serious long-term disability. Individuals who are at risk for heart disease also are at risk for stroke.

“Saint Joseph’s primary stroke center provides a unique, multi-disciplinary approach to stroke care within the busiest cardiovascular hospital in Atlanta,” said Keith Sanders, MD, the center’s medical director. Saint Joseph’s is one of the nation’s top 50 hospitals and is nationally recognized as a center of excellence for cardiovascular services.

“Stroke care is complicated, requiring a team approach. Our multi-disciplinary team of floor nurses, emergency department (ED) nurses and physicians, radiologists, a stroke care coordinator and representatives from pharmacy, physical therapy and occupational therapy meet weekly to review the case of every stroke patient who gets admitted to Saint Joseph’s,” said Sanders. Saint Joseph’s uses its Rapid Response Team to provide in-house first-line defense to patients who exhibit stroke symptoms.

Time is a critical factor in the treatment of ischemic stroke, from the first onset of symptoms to administering treatment with tissue plasminogen activator, a clot-busting drug commonly referred to as tPA.  The stroke center team constantly monitors their performance on 10 separate areas of acute stroke care from “door to needle” –  the time a patient enters the ED to when they are administered the tPA.

Community education of the timing issue also is crucial to helping stroke victims get the fastest emergency  care, according to Bonnie Tillman, RN, BSN, Saint Joseph’s stroke care coordinator.

Nearly 40 emergency medical services personnel attended a recent seminar designed to educate first responders on stroke symptoms, as well as the critical needs of noting what time a patient was last known normal and of transporting stroke patients to the nearest certified emergency room facility.

Ongoing physician education also is important, according to Sanders. He meets regularly with a group of neurologists, neurosurgeons, emergency department staff and hospitalists to continually improve and revise stroke care guidelines.

“The administration of Saint Joseph’s has been forward thinking in apportioning limited resources for stroke care. There is a full-time stroke care coordinator, which is a big commitment for an institution to support,” said Sanders. “They also supported the creation of the stroke center and assist with a stroke center foundation…it’s taken some foresight, but it really dovetails with the hospital’s mission of providing advanced tertiary cardiovascular care.”

Saint Joseph’s Hospital has received Stroke Performance Awards (2007- Silver, 2008 – Gold, 2009 – Silver) from the award-winning Get with the Guidelines quality improvement program from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.


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