Together with its partner hospitals, the North Carolina Stroke Association (NCSA) has provided more than 25,000 stroke risk screenings statewide. And more and more of these screenings are happening across Eastern North Carolina through partnerships with hospitals such as Onslow Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville and Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City.
Onslow Memorial Hospital
Norman Taylor, stroke nurse coordinator with Onslow Memorial Hospital, started a screening effort in late 2009 and has already conducted more than 300 community assessments. “We have found that participating in existing community events whether those are health fairs, faith-based events or any type of program designed for families is a great way to reach people in our community who are not stroke-aware,” said Taylor.
Taylor recalls meeting two young soldiers from Camp Lejeune at a community health fair. Unbeknownst to the men, they both had significant risk factors for stroke. As a result, the soldiers are making appointments to see their doctors. “By making these two outwardly-healthy men aware of their own risk factors they have a better chance of making the lifestyle changes needed to prevent a stroke in the future. Building this type of awareness is why these screening programs are so incredibly important.”
As part of the community screenings, Taylor and his team provide information on recognizing the signs and symptoms of stroke as well as the importance of call 911 for immediate assistance. “We emphasize that how quickly someone reacts to the signs and symptoms of a stroke will absolutely impact the quality of the rest of their life,” he said.
Taylor credits the North Carolina Stroke Association with providing the tools and guidance for conducting successful community screenings. In 2008, Onslow Memorial Hospital received a NCSA Partnership Grant of $20,000 that Taylor is using to conduct health assessments and screening surveys within the community. In addition, NCSA provided Taylor and his team with the screening tool eliminating the need to create his own survey. Once the surveys are completed, Taylor submits them to NCSA which then runs the results and provides Onslow with both an aggregate report as well as call-back reports if hospitals want to conduct individual follow ups with participants with risk factors.
“Partnering with NCSA has truly enabled our program to hit the ground running,” said Taylor. “Not only do I have access to great tools and educational materials but I’m also able to network with my peers in other hospitals across the state to learn best practices and problem solve. “
Pitt County Memorial Hospital
Pitt County Memorial Hospital (PCMH) was the first expansion site of the North Carolina Stroke Association’s Stroke Risk Identification Program in 2003. Susan Freeman, program manager for neurosciences and Terry Congleton, registered nurse and stroke educator, worked closely with NCSA in bringing the program to their community. In 2009, PCMH received a NCSA Partnership Grant of $6,879 to expand its stroke screening program.
“The commitment from hospital leadership to address the burden of stroke in our region has resulted in increased access to care,” said Freeman. “Community outreach is an essential component for improving this access through knowledge and prevention.”
Congleton works closely with NCSA to utilize the screening tools for risk assessments, education and counseling. Since the inception of the Stroke Risk Identification Program in 2003, the screenings have expanded to include 15 counties east of I-95 and Congleton has seen firsthand how they can make a difference in so many lives. One example was during a screening that PCMH coordinated with Duplin General Hospital and the school nurses. “We met a gentleman who had known risk for hypertension but was not following his treatment regimen,” said Congleton. “From the screening, he was identified as having significant uncontrolled risk factors that needed to be addressed immediately and thanks to the work of the school nurse, was able to see his provider the next day. He was taken out of work until his blood pressure was back under control. The screening and quick intervention by the school nurse made the difference.”
Freeman credits the educational component of the community screenings with making a difference in empowering participants to actively manage and change key behaviors that are proven to modify their risk profile. “PCMH is proud to have the Stroke Risk Identification Program offered by NCSA and we consider it a key component of our mission,” said Freeman. “Our goal of improving stroke care in eastern North Carolina begins with community outreach.”
Tanya Miller, stroke program coordinator for Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City, has used NCSA’s Stroke Risk Assessment Program to conduct hundreds of screenings in a five-county area targeting high-risk groups. The hospital provides on-the-spot counseling regarding stroke risk factors and referrals for follow-up case as needed.
“I find that many people we come into contact with are not familiar with stroke risk factors, warning signs or the need to activate EMS,” said Miller. “To decrease the devastating statistics surrounding stroke in eastern North Carolina, we’ve got to continue with these types of educational programs and empower people to take charge of their own health.”
Get Involved with the North Carolina Stroke Association
To learn more about how your hospital can apply to become a partner with the North Carolina Stroke Association, contact Beth Parks, executive director, at (336) 713-5052.