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May is National Stroke Awareness Month

May 23, 2016 by Beth Anne Atkins

GREENVILLE, NC— May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and the stroke team at Vidant Medical Center strives to provide quality and efficient stroke care throughout eastern North Carolina. In the 29 counties that Vidant Health serves, stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability. 

North Carolina has one of the highest stroke death rates in the nation, which is two times the national average. Every 20 minutes, someone from North Carolina is hospitalized with a stroke and every two hours someone dies from a stroke. 
The VMC stroke team works with stroke patients and their families on a daily basis providing support and education and implementing processes that will reduce the occurrence and impact of stroke in the region. The team also serves as a resource to Vidant’s community hospitals to enhance their care delivery model for stroke patients. 


“When you couple the effective acute therapies with effective rehabilitation, you decrease the devastating consequences of stroke. Whatever we can do here in the hospital to diminish the risk of disability, that’s what we are trying to do,” said Dr. Donald Price, medical director, Vidant Medical Center stroke team, and clinical associate professor of neurology at the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine. “We are trying every day, every week, every month, and every year to improve our interventions and improve outcomes for stroke patients.” 


Members of the VMC stroke team include: 


• Ashley Elks – stroke center manager: Elks has been with VMC for five years and has worked on the Neuroscience Intermediate Unit and the Cardiac Intermediate Unit. She then joined the Stroke Center as the program manager. She has oversight of the stroke coordinators, stroke navigator and stroke quality nurse specialists. She manages the Stroke Program at VMC, the implementation of telestroke throughout Vidant Health and collaboration with the regional hospitals to ensure standardization of best practices in stroke care. 

• Jordan Joyner – stroke nurse navigator: Joyner started her nursing career on the Cardiac Intermediate Unit at Vidant Medical Center. She then joined the Stroke Center as a stroke nurse navigator. Her role is unique in that she follows stroke patients and their families through the care continuum. She serves as a patient and family advocate and ensures clear communication from the health care team. She works to provide education, emotional support and resources while patients are in the hospital and after discharge. She also coordinates prevention and screening events and facilitates the Stroke Support Network.

• Vonda Cogdell – stroke coordinator: Cogdell started her nursing career 24 years ago at Vidant Medical Center. She was instrumental in helping obtain primary stroke certification at VMC. Her role involves ensuring stroke care best practice is implemented throughout the Vidant Health system. She has a passion for education and also serves as an advanced stroke life support instructor. She has a passion for stroke care that stems from both of her parents suffering strokes. 

• Heather Doetzl – stroke coordinator: Doetzl started her nursing career as a neuroscience nurse eight years ago. Her role involves ensuring stroke care best practice is delivered in the care of stroke patients at VMC. She collaborates with the interdisciplinary team to ensure quality stroke care for every patient. She has a passion for stroke care that stems from her grandfather suffering from a stroke. 

• Cristine Small – stroke center specialist: Small is responsible for data collection and reporting at VMC. Her role has been instrumental in process improvement for stroke care throughout VMC. She has been essential in the success and growth of the stroke program at VMC. She has been with VMC for almost 30 years and will retire this June. Brinkley Tyson and Jennifer Crocker will join the stroke center team as quality nurse specialists and will assume stroke data collection for Vidant Health. 


“The purpose of the stroke team is to educate the public and health care professionals about stroke warning signs and the availability of acute stroke treatment. They focus on streamlining stroke care through the region while continually monitoring the efficacy of its work,” said Elks. “The team works diligently to improve the delivery and coordination of acute stroke care throughout the Vidant Health system.”


FAST is an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke. Recognition of a stroke and calling 9-1-1 will determine how quickly someone will receive help and treatment. 


F: FACE – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A: ARMS – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S: SPEECH – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T: TIME – If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. 


The stroke support group at Vidant Medical Center provides support and education for stroke survivors and their families. This group meets the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Rehabilitation Center classroom. Call 252-847-2152 for more information about this group.

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