Direct and indirect costs of stroke in the U.S. in 2010 were $73.3 billion, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Much of that cost, according to Joy Sweeney, RN, BSN, of St. Joseph Medical Center in Reading, Pa., is for treating stroke patients with long-term disabilities.
In her second year as a community stroke educator at St. Joseph’s, Sweeney tries to educate the public and healthcare workers about the best methods for preventing stroke and for treating stroke victims to minimize its effects.
“I go to health fairs, speak at churches, retirement homes; I run the streets a lot,”said Sweeney, a 37-year nurse who exudes passion for her work. “I like to say I’m on assignment because then I sound like Diane Sawyer.”Nurses and healthcare professionals from the 1-North stroke unit at St Joseph took part in the event.
One of Sweeney’s most important assignments in the past two years has been organizing the Trends in Stroke Care conference at St. Joseph’s. On Sept. 17, St. Joseph conducted its second annual conference, which was attended by 48 nurses and 21 physicians from in and around Berks County.
“What we’re doing is providing information to our local people about all the different opportunities, and the new research regarding stroke,” Sweeney said. “We take the patient from the ER all the way to rehab.”
Attendees earned up to five category 1 CME credits, or contact hours, and heard information on six topics related to stroke. Sweeney said one of the main messages of the conference was how basic nursing care can enhance brain protection.
Sweeney hopes the conference can grow to become more of a regional event in future years.
“We definitely would like to expand our base, expand our audience,” she said. “We have a great bank of excellent speakers locally. We’re a small community hospital, so what we want to do is grow our knowledge with other hospitals, too.”
St. Joseph, which initiated a stroke program in 2009, received a Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. Sweeney said St. Joseph also hopes to become Joint Commission-certified in stroke care this year.
Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.