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Developing specialist-nursing skills to diagnose and treat strokes

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Key speakers from the 2018 North West Stroke Conference hosted by UCLan

UCLan works with partners to increase the capacity for immediate stroke care assessments

A new approach to stroke care in the North West is needed because of a lack of specialist clinicians according to experts.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has joined forces with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) North West, National Stroke Nursing Forum (NSNF) and the UK Stroke Forum Stroke-Specific Education Framework team to develop a defined national career framework for stroke nurses.  This framework will provide an impetus for nurses to become more specialist, having their expertise recognised and so ensuring they remain in stroke services.

UCLan’s Stroke Research Team, led by the only nursing stroke care professor in the UK Professor Dame Caroline Watkins, is working with leading nursing stroke professors across the world to introduce a new programme for nurses that teaches stroke-specialist knowledge and skills. The team has introduced Professor Anne Alexandrov’s Neurovascular Education and Training in Stroke Management and Acute Reperfusion Therapy (NET SMART) programme to the UK for the first time in specialist stroke units across the North West.*

The training focuses on acute stroke diagnosis and management and means that more nurses are equipped with the specialist knowledge needed to diagnose and treat suspected strokes. The programme has also led to nurses being included on the previously solely medical telestroke rota, an approach to diagnosing strokes through remote assessment, within Lancashire and Cumbria, and in supporting the delivery of acute stroke treatments that disperse or remove blood clots such as thrombolysis and thrombectomy.

Nurses are fundamental to the delivery of excellent stroke care and there is now evidence to suggest that nurses play a central role in lowering mortality rates, and ensuring quality outcomes.

Speaking at the 2018 North West Stroke Conference hosted by UCLan, Professor Dame Caroline Watkins said: “Currently many patients are not getting the right care because we do not have staff with the right knowledge and skills and enough of them to deliver optimum stroke care along the stroke pathway; from preventing stroke through to supporting people in having a life after stroke.”

The conference looked at the new Stroke Workforce Plan within the National Stroke Plan that is due to be launched in the summer and focused on innovative team working and the changing nursing workforce.

Dr Liz Lightbody, Chair National Stroke Nursing Forum, confirmed: “Nurses are fundamental to the delivery of excellent stroke care and there is now evidence to suggest that nurses play a central role in lowering mortality rates, and ensuring quality outcomes.   With stroke service re-organisation and challenges within the stroke workforce, stroke nurses roles are changing.  We need to ensure that staff have the correct knowledge and skills for the role in which they work.”

Lyndsey Boardman | 25 June 2018