Ontario nurses play a key role in preventing strokes and supporting stroke survivors

    TORONTO, June 4 /CNW/ - During Stroke Awareness Month, nurses across the
province are doing what they do best - using the best evidence available to
help Ontarians prevent strokes, recover from strokes and develop healthier
lifestyles. In order to achieve these goals, they're following guidelines
developed by nurses for nurses.
    Stroke Assessment Across the Continuum of Care and Nursing Management of
Hypertension were developed by the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario
(RNAO) in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. These
best practice guidelines provide the tools nurses need to assess and manage
stroke survivors and combat hypertension.
    Hypertension is the number one cause of stroke and stroke is the fourth
leading cause of death in Canada. Hypertension occurs when blood pressure is
higher than normal. It's sometimes called the 'silent killer' because often
people don't notice the symptoms. A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function
caused by the interruption of blood flow to the brain or the rupture of blood
vessels in the brain. A stroke can affect an individual's ability to move,
see, remember, speak, reason, read or write.
    Stroke Assessment Across the Continuum of Care is a comprehensive
guideline that addresses topics ranging from recognizing the symptoms of a
stroke to helping stroke survivors recover. The guideline includes a tool for
conducting a neurological assessment on someone who has had a stroke and
another for determining whether a survivor is depressed. The guideline also
provides nurses with a scale for measuring the level of stress that caregivers
are experiencing in order to ensure that families of stroke survivors can
access the resources and support available in their communities.
    "Stroke is a devastating syndrome because people often lose their ability
to communicate and be independent and it often happens very quickly. So nurses
become their voice. I see the nurse as being in a partnership with the stroke
survivor and his or her family members. In addition to assessing the effects
of a stroke and sharing that information with the rest of the health-care
team, nurses provide emotional support and educate people about their options
and what to expect," explains Linda Kelloway, the Registered Nurse (RN) who
helped develop the stroke guideline.
    Nursing Management of Hypertension places a strong focus on the role
nurses play in supporting individuals who are trying to make lifestyle
changes, explains RN Heather McConnell, program manager for the RNAO's Best
Practice Guidelines Program. "These changes include quitting smoking, managing
stress, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, monitoring salt intake and
eating well. Medication is certainly a key component of hypertension
management, but modifying your lifestyle may have as much impact for some
individuals as taking medication."
    According to RN Cindy Bolton, who helped develop this guideline, nurses
play a critical role in identifying high blood pressure and in educating
people about the dangers of high blood pressure. "Patients and clients should
feel confident asking nurses blood pressure-related questions like 'What do
these numbers mean?' because nurses have expertise in this area," she
    RNAO's ambitious Best Practice Guidelines Program, funded by the Ministry
of Health and Long-term Care was launched in 1999 to provide the best
available evidence for patient care across a wide spectrum of health-care
areas. The 30 guidelines developed to date are a substantive contribution
towards building excellence in Ontario's health-care system. They are
available to nurses and other health care professionals across Canada and
abroad. To learn more about RNAO's Nursing Best Guidelines Program or to view
these resources please visit www.rnao.org/bestpractices

    The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario is the professional
association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has
lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice,
increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and
influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.

For further information:

For further information: Jill-Marie Burke, Media Relations Coordinator,
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, Work phone: (416) 408-5606, Cell:
(647) 504-4008, Toll-free: 1-800-268-7199 ext.250, E-mail: jburke@rnao.org

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