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Comprehensive Stroke Center Honored By American Heart Association for Excellence in Stroke Care

May 26, 2010

RWJUH Stroke Team

RWJUH has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® (GWTG) Stroke Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award.

The award recognizes RWJUH’s commitment and success in implementing quality care for stroke patients, according to evidence-based guidelines.

“We are extremely pleased that all of the hard work and commitment to improving our stroke care practices has paid off with this award,” said James McKinney, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Medical Director of RWJUH’s Comprehensive Stroke Center.

“Achieving this status was the result of a focused, multidisciplinary effort by our entire stroke care team to deliver the best care possible to patients who have suffered a stroke.”

To receive the award, RWJUH achieved an 85 percent or higher adherence to all GWTG-Stroke Performance Achievement indicators for two or more consecutive 12-month periods and achieved 75 percent or higher compliance with six of 10 GWTG-Stroke Quality Measures, which are reporting initiatives to measure quality of care.

These measures include aggressive use of medications, cholesterol reducing drugs and smoking cessation, all aimed at reducing death and disability and improving the lives of stroke patients.

At RWJUH’s state-designated comprehensive stroke center, an interdisciplinary Stroke Center Steering Committee meets monthly to review stroke care response and practices with an eye toward enhancing the hospital’s overall performance in stroke care.

The committee has initiated improvements such as a “brain attack” overhead page to ensure that the hospital’s stroke care team is assembled as quickly as possible once hospital staff is alerted that a stroke patient is on the way. The team also works closely with emergency medical service crews on educational programs to help them quickly identify early stroke symptoms.

“There is an entire chain of events that needs to occur rapidly when we receive a brain attack call,” explained Virginia Roberts, RN, Director of RWJUH’s Comprehensive Stroke Center. “For example, the CAT-scan area needs to be cleared, the lab needs to be aware that we will require immediate blood work analysis with expedited results, and the doctor needs to be ready for the patient’s arrival in the emergency department.”

The Comprehensive Stroke Center at RWJUH has received the Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission. To earn and maintain this certification, the Stroke Center embarked on an extensive on-site review by Joint Commission professionals to assure the deployment of rapid-response stroke treatment teams; the operation of designated inpatient stroke care units staffed by qualified stroke caregivers; the use of comprehensive, written stroke care protocols; the existence of an integrated system for managing stroke patients; compliance with professional standards and a firm commitment from administrators as well as clinicians to provide up-to-date community education about stroke risks, symptoms and treatment.

The GWTG-Stroke program encourages performance improvement efforts and enhanced patient education to help hospitals improve all aspects of stroke care. GWTG-Stroke uses “the teachable moment,” the time soon after a patient has had a stroke, when they are most likely to listen and follow their health care professionals’ guidance.

Studies demonstrate that patients who are taught how to manage their risk factors while still in the hospital reduce their risk of a second stroke. Through GWTG-Stroke, customized patient education materials are made available at the point of discharge, based on patients’ individual risk profiles. The take-away materials are written in an easy-to-understand format and are available in both English and Spanish. In addition the GWTG Patient Management Tool provides access to up-to-date cardiovascular and stroke science at the point of care.

According to the American Stroke Association, each year approximately 700,000 people suffer a stroke—500,000 are first attacks and 200,000 are recurrent attacks. Of stroke survivors, 21 percent of men and 24 percent of women die within a year, and for those aged 65 and older, the percentage is even higher.

About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) is a 965-bed academic medical center with campuses in New Brunswick and Somerville, NJ.  Its Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation, cancer care, stroke care, neuroscience, joint replacement, and women’s and children’s care including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital ( 

As the flagship Cancer Hospital of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the principal teaching hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, RWJUH is an innovative leader in advancing state-of-the-art care. A Level 1 Trauma Center and the first Pediatric Trauma Center in the state, RWJUH’s New Brunswick campus serves as a national resource in its ground-breaking approaches to emergency preparedness.

RWJUH has been ranked among the best hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report seven times and has been selected by the publication as a high performing hospital in numerous specialties.  The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital has been ranked among the best hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report three times. In addition, RWJUH was named among the best places to work in health care by Modern Healthcare magazine and received the Equity Care of Award as Top Hospital for Healthcare Diversity and Inclusion from the American Hospital Association.

Both the New Brunswick and Somerset campuses have earned significant national recognition for clinical quality and patient safety, including the prestigious Magnet® Award for Nursing Excellence and “Most Wired” designation by Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine. The Joint Commission and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services have designated the New Brunswick Campus as a Comprehensive Stroke Center and the Somerset Campus as a Primary Stroke Center.

The American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer has rated RWJUH New Brunswick among the nation’s best comprehensive cancer centers and designated the Steeplechase Cancer Center at RWJ Somerset as a Comprehensive Community Cancer Center.  The Joint Surgery Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset has earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for total knee and total hip replacement surgery.