Caring for stroke patients at Durham Regional

Shannon Chesney, RN, Emergency Department, is part of a team that treats stroke patients every day. She is also a member of Durham Regional Hospital’s stroke committee, which is working to continuously improve outcomes and stay abreast of current trends and best practices in stroke patient care.

“In our Emergency Department (ED) we often see stroke patients who wait to come in because they are in denial about what is happening to them or they think they will feel better in a day or so,” Shannon explains. “If patients come to the ED immediately after they notice stroke symptoms, they have a better chance for a more positive outcome. ”

Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is a clot-busting drug that can be administered to patients who are experiencing a stroke within three hours of the onset of symptoms. According to the American Stroke Association, if given promptly, tPA can significantly reduce the effects of stroke and reduce permanent disability. Unfortunately, only 3 to 5 percent of stroke patients reach the hospital in time to receive it.

ClockWhen stroke patients arrive at Durham Regional Hospital quickly after symptoms begin, they will be evaluated by a physician. If the physician believes a patient is having a stroke, a “Code Stroke” is called. This is an alert that goes to all hospital departments involved in stroke patient care. The patient becomes the number one priority, receiving a CT scan, IV, neurology checks, vital sign monitoring and a tPA within 60 minutes of arrival if he or she qualifies. From there the patient is monitored for 24 hours in the Critical Care Unit and then transferred to the stroke unit.

“In the past few years we have done an outstanding job working together to improve stroke patient care at Durham Regional,” says Chesney. “We continuously work to improve processes and even received certification as a Primary Stroke Center from The Joint Commission in 2012. The way we coordinate with departments in the hospital, like CT, Laboratory and Pharmacy, as well as communicate with local EMS is fabulous. I would bring my own father here.”

May is stroke awareness month.
Stroke warning signs include the sudden onset of

  • numbness or weakness of the face or limbs
  • confusion or trouble speaking
  • dizziness or loss of balance
  • trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • difficulty walking
  • sudden severe headache

If you notice any of these symptoms, call 911. For more information, visit

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