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Robert R. Cawley, D.O.

Dover, NH 03802

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WDH is First Primary Stroke Center in New Hampshire

The Joint Commission, in conjunction with The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, recently recognized Wentworth-Douglass Hospital (WDH) with Advanced Certification as a Primary Stroke Center – the first hospital in NH to receive The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal Certification. The Certification signifies an organization is providing the next generation of stroke care by meeting critical elements of performance to achieve better outcomes for patients.

WDH underwent a rigorous on-site review in May 2012 by a Joint Commission representative to determine the Hospital’s compliance with the requirements for the Certification designation. Hospital President & CEO Gregory Walker comm-ended the WDH Stroke Team that began an intense quest to excel in stroke care through an affiliation between WDH and Massachusetts General Hospital in 2008. “Congratulations to the entire team,” Walker said in a memo to staff. “This was a major undertaking that has truly benefited our patients.”

The Stroke Initiative involved training both internal staff and local EMS personnel and holding community education programs to raise awareness of the signs of stroke. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association granted the Hospital Silver “Get with the Guidelines” designation in 2010 followed by Gold designation in 2011 culminating in the Hospital’s Certification status by The Joint Commission this year.

According to neurologist Paul Cass, DO, Chief Medical and Integration Officer and Chairman of the WDH Stroke Team, stroke is one of the leading causes of death and long-term disability in adults in this country. Hundreds of concerned staff and clinicians at WDH worked tirelessly over the past three years to design systems of care ensuring each patient receives the care they deserve. “Only a small number of hospitals across this nation are so designated,” Dr. Cass said. “To our community this is another sign we are partners in their care, working together to achieve the highest level of health and wellness.”

Stroke Program Medical Director Gary Usher, MD, neurologist, added, “This certification is a recognition of a lot of hard work and a reflection that stroke care in this Hospital is nothing less than excellent.” 

WDH Stroke Program Coordinator and Clinical Nurse Educator Cindy Spencer, RN, BS, CCRN, emphasized the role of multiple participants in gaining certification. “This was a team effort by many staff,” she explained. “We had great support from the Board of Directors, Administration, our EMS providers, physicians and nurses as well as the rehab specialists. Our transporters, housekeepers, and administrative support staff also learned about stroke, stroke care and how they can contribute. Everybody in the hospital has been involved.”

Stroke and Trauma Program Manager Nicole Keefe, RN, said Certification as a Primary Stroke Center is evidence of the quality of WDH’s stroke program. “We developed the stroke program with the intention to provide excellent care and raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of stroke. Those symptoms spell F.A.S.T.: Face droop Arm weakness, Speech changes (slurring, trouble finding the right word) and Time is critical.” 

The Stroke initiative will move forward to focus on stroke prevention with more community education. “We want to help people lower their own risk for stroke by supporting them to manage their blood pressure and cholesterol, control diabetes, quit smoking and improve their activity level,” Keefe said.

Developed in collaboration with the American Stroke Association, The Joint Commission’s Primary Stroke Center Certification program is based on the Brain Attack Coalition’s “Recommendations for the Establishment of Primary Stroke Centers.” Certification is available only to stroke programs in Joint Commission-accredited acute care hospitals. 


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