Many Americans don’t know that stroke is the second most-common cause of death worldwide (and the fourth most-common in the US), and that it is preventable and treatable. Travel nursing jobs in an ER are likely to involve treating stroke victims, as are OR travel assignments — as well as those for surgical techs.

While RNs are trained to recognize and react to the signs of a stroke, many ‘civilians’ are not. Nurses are in an excellent position to share their knowledge with the public at large, and especially with the families of individuals who are most vulnerable to a stroke: the elderly, diabetics, people with high blood pressure or heart disease, and individuals with a family or personal history of stroke. Demographics like race and gender can also increase the risk of stroke.

Signs of a Stroke

Many programs teach the public to use the F A S T system for stroke response:

  • Face Drooping
    • Is one side of the face drooping?  When asked to smile, Is the individual’s smile uneven or lopsided?
  • Arm Weakness
    • Is one arm weak? When asked to raise both arms, is one arm drifting downward?
  • Speech
    • Is the individual slurring their words or not able to speak? Ask them to repeat a simple sentence.
  • Time to Call 9-1-1
    • If the person shows ANY of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately and get them to a hospital.

Speed is of the essence; only one in four stroke patients makes it to the hospital within an hour of the onset of symptoms — the optimal time for treatment with medication.

Stroke Treatment

Individuals experiencing a stroke are given immediate medication, endovascular procedures, surgical intervention or a combination thereof. After emergency treatment, stroke care focuses on helping patients become as functional and independent as possible.  Most stroke survivors receive ongoing treatment in a rehabilitation program, where caregivers may include physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, case managers, counselors and peers. Therapy programs are tailored to the patient’s age, overall health, degree of disability and the availability of family support and medical resources.

Stroke Prevention

RNs often advise people who want to reduce their risk of stroke to work with their healthcare providers on lifestyle and healthcare changes, including:

  • Maintaining proper weight
  • Avoiding drugs known to raise blood pressure
  • Reduction of salt intake and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables to bolster micronutrient and potassium intake
  • Regular exercise
  • Smoking cessation
  • Consulting a doctor regarding medication to help lower blood pressure and balance cholesterol levels