CASE STUDY
Patient M is an active woman, 70 years of age, who lost consciousness and collapsed at home. Her daughter, who was visiting her at the time, did not witness the collapse but found her mother on the floor, awake, confused, and slightly short of breath. The daughter estimated that she called EMS within 5 minutes after the collapse, and EMS responded within 10 minutes. EMS evaluated Patient M, drew blood for a glucose level, and determined that she may have had a stroke. They notified the nearest designated comprehensive stroke center that they would be arriving with the patient within 15 minutes. Patient M’s daughter accompanied her.
The triage and transportation of an individual with suspected stroke should be similar to that for an individual with serious trauma, and treatment is recommended within 3 hours after the onset of stroke. Because of the limited time available for assessment and diagnosis before optimal treatment, the EMS dispatcher should notify EMS personnel immediately and coordinate transport of the individual to the closest emergency facility, preferably one that is a designated primary (or comprehensive) stroke care center.
On presentation in the emergency department, Patient M is immediately triaged. Because Patient M is still somewhat confused, her daughter is asked to provide information on the patient’s history. The daughter reports that her mother had had an episode of sudden-onset numbness and tingling in the right limb, with slight confusion and slurred speech, 3 days previously. The episode lasted only 5 minutes, and Patient M had not called her primary care physician. Additional information provided by the daughter indicates that Patient M has been treated for hypertension for 10 years but notes that she is often not compliant with her antihypertensive medicine, a diuretic. The patient has never smoked, drinks occasionally, and is of normal weight.
Patient M has two significant risk factors for stroke; one is a long history of hypertension. More than two-thirds of individuals older than 65 years of age are hypertensive, and it is important for individuals with hypertension to have regular blood pressure screening and to maintain a blood pressure of less than 140/90 mm Hg. Antihypertension therapy has been found to reduce the incidence of stroke by 30% to 40%. Patient M’s noncompliance with her antihypertension medicine likely includes her among the 65% of known hypertensive individuals in whom blood pressure is not controlled.
Patient M’s previous episode of numbness, confusion, and slurred speech appears to be evidence of a TIA, another substantial risk factor for stroke. Research has shown that approximately 5% of patients will have an ischemic stroke within 7 days after a TIA. In addition, the risk of stroke within 7 days is doubled for patients with TIAs who did not seek treatment. As is the case for many individuals who have a TIA, Patient M did not seek medical attention because the clinical symptoms resolved quickly. However, research findings indicate that urgent treatment should be provided for TIAs, as early treatment for TIA and minor stroke has been shown to reduce the risk of early recurrent stroke by 80%.
On physical examination, Patient M’s blood pressure is 150/95 mm Hg. She has pain in her left arm and a slight headache. There are slight carotid bruits on the right. She is assessed with use of the NIHSS and found to have left hemiparesis and left visual/spatial neglect. The results of laboratory tests, including a complete blood count, prothrombin time, serum electrolyte levels, cardiac biomarkers, and renal function studies, are all within normal limits. CT of the brain indicates a thrombus in a branch of the right internal carotid artery, with approximately 50% occlusion due to atherosclerosis. There is an area of infarction in the right anterior hemisphere. There is no evidence of a subarachnoid hemorrhage. The diagnosis is made 2 hours after Patient M’s arrival in the emergency department. She is treated with intravenous rt-PA at a dose of 0.9 mg/kg, and aspirin antiplatelet therapy is started at an initial dose of 325 mg, 24 hours after thrombolytic therapy, and a maintenance dose of 75 mg per day.
Many of the patient’s symptoms, including her loss of consciousness, shortness of breath, pain, and headache, are nontraditional symptoms of stroke. Studies have demonstrated that nontraditional symptoms are more prevalent among women, often leading to a delay in the evaluation for stroke. EMS personnel and clinicians should be aware of the potential for nontraditional symptoms in women and carry out a diagnostic evaluation addressing a suspicion of stroke.
Patient M is eligible for thrombolytic therapy with rt-PA according to evidence-based guidelines developed by the AHA/ASA: her blood pressure is lower than 185/110 mm Hg, the onset of symptoms is less than 3 hours prior to the start of treatment, and the laboratory values are within normal limits. Antiplatelet therapy with aspirin 325 mg daily (versus anticoagulant therapy with warfarin) is recommended for treatment of patients with stroke or TIA due to intracranial atherosclerosis with 50% to 99% occlusion. Antiplatelet therapy is not recommended as an adjunctive therapy within 24 hours of thrombolytic therapy.
When Patient M’s condition is stabilized, her primary care physician and consultant neurologist provide a referral for stroke rehabilitation, and a multidisciplinary rehabilitation team is formed to assess her rehabilitative needs, recommend the proper rehabilitation setting, and develop a treatment strategy tailored to her specific needs that includes daily antiplatelet therapy. Patient M is again assessed with the NIHSS, and the score is 12. The patient’s cognitive and communication skills are intact on evaluation with the FIM, with the exception of the previously documented left visual/spatial neglect. The assessment also includes evaluation of the patient’s risk for complications. Because of her spatial neglect, she is screened with the Berg Balance Scale and the Stops Walking When Talking test. The score on the Berg Balance Scale is 43, and Patient M does stop walking to engage in conversation. Psychosocial assessment includes screening with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale, as well as review of the medical history and conversations with the patient and her children; no signs of depression are present.
Patient M’s score of 12 on the NIHSS falls within the range (6 to 15) that indicates she is likely to benefit from rehabilitation. Evaluating a stroke survivor’s risk of complications is an important component of the overall assessment, and among the most common complications are falls, deep vein thrombosis, pressure ulcers, swallowing dysfunction, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and depressive symptoms. In assessing the risk of complications, the Berg Balance Scale appears to be the most appropriate screen for patients who are likely to fall, and a score of less than 45 is associated with a likelihood of falling. The risk of a fall is also increased when a patient stops walking to talk, as Patient M did, during the Stops Talking When Walking test.
Screening for signs of depression is also essential, as depression affects approximately 33% of stroke survivors. Signs of depression are subtle and may be vague. Several screening tools are available, but there is no universally accepted tool for use in the post-stroke setting. The CES-D was chosen in this case because it is easy to administer, is useful in older individuals, and has been found to be effective for screening in the stroke population, except for individuals who have aphasia. The diagnosis of depression in stroke survivors should be based on sources in addition to a formal screening tool, such as a medical evaluation, patient self-report, observation of patient behavior, patient history, and staff reports of changes in behavior and motivation.
The rehabilitation team discusses the results of the assessment with Patient M’s daughter and son, both of whom live about 45 minutes away from the patient. Together, the team and the family members explore options to determine the best approach to rehabilitation. A decision is made for Patient M to be discharged to an inpatient stroke unit, and a rehabilitation program is developed. The nurse on the team discusses the program with Patient M and her children and explains the course of rehabilitation and the expectations. Rehabilitation will focus on an exercise program consisting of aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching, and coordination and balance activities.
Early initiation of rehabilitation is a particularly strong predictor of improved outcome, and rehabilitation in a stroke unit has been associated with improved quality of life, survival, and functional status at 5 years compared with a general healthcare facility. No studies have demonstrated the superiority of one rehabilitation setting over another, and the inpatient setting was chosen primarily to ensure consistent care, given how far away Patient M’s children live, and the limited support she otherwise has for healthcare needs. Decisions about the setting and program for rehabilitation should be shared with family members, and family and other caregivers should be provided with educational resources about the rehabilitation process.
The exercise program developed for Patient M is designed to help her regain the ability to independently carry out activities of daily living safely and to regain a functional level of ambulation. The benefits of an exercise program include increasing fitness, strength, and flexibility; improving function; preventing injuries and falls; and reducing the risk of recurrent stroke.
Patient M gradually resumes the ability to function independently, and after more than 2 weeks in the stroke rehabilitation unit, the score on the NIHSS has improved to 5. Before she is discharged to her home, the rehabilitation team provides instructions for exercises to continue at home and recommends moderate physical activity as a secondary prevention measure. The team also educates Patient M about the importance of maintaining a normal blood pressure through use of her antihypertension medication and lifestyle modifications. At a follow-up visit with her primary care clinician at 3 months, Patient M’s blood pressure is 135/80 mm Hg, and she reports that she has been compliant with her antihypertension medicine and antiplatelet therapy and is functioning well at home.

Rubric
Needs Improvement Meets Expectations
The Lucid chart reflects research into the roles and scope of practice of all professionals involved in the case study provided. Points:
0.5 (12.50%)
Response is vague, inaccurate, and/or incomplete. Points:
1 (25.00%)
Response accurately identifies professionals involved in a case as well as their practice roles and best practice patient care.
The flow of the chart clearly delineates each professional’s role in this case study and how these roles would interact to respond to the scenario. Also how the professionals would work inter-professionally in an effort to result in the best possible outcome for the patient. Points:
0.5 (12.50%)
The response is focused only on their own discipline but does adequately discuss what contribution the student’s own discipline will make to the case study.
Communicates usual standard of care but does not demonstrate a spirit of inquiry to question the status quo. Does not eloquently provide the rationale for decisions made in the case study. Decisions and actions are consistent with current practice even though they may not be based on current scientific evidence. Points:
1 (25.00%)
Response to the case study is from professional identity but includes a discussion of the roles of at least two other disciplines. The response includes a discussion of teamwork and communication with other professionals. The response includes aspects of the case that require consultation and the involvement of at least one other discipline.
Communicates evidence for decision making; evaluates current evidence and applies the best evidence for decision making. Communicates rationale for decisions made in simulation, case study, or practice setting. Decisions and actions are consistent with current practice standards.
As an extension of your chart, include 2 paragraphs explaining how you as a nurse are incorporated into the scenario and successfully explain how you might play a role on the IP team for this scenario. Points:
1.5 (12.50%)
The response is vague and/or incomplete in describing how to serve as the leader of an inter-professional team and vague, inaccurate, or incomplete in considering MBTI. Points:
2(25.00%)
Response accurately describes how to serve as the leader of an inter-professional team and accurately analyzes how an MBTI style may inhibit the function of inter-professional teams in times of stress and how to overcome those challenges.