The Heyman Stroke Center: Eastern Oklahoma’s Only Joint Commission Certified Comprehensive Stroke Program

Posted on March 1, 2023.

When minutes can impact the amount of brain loss an individual experiences during a stroke, efficient processes and strong teamwork can make a difference in a patient’s future. Established in 2008, the Ascension St. John Heyman Stroke Center is the only Joint Commission-certified Comprehensive Stroke Center in Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma. Comprehensive Certified Stroke Centers are recognized as industry leaders because certification requires significant investment into state-of-the-art equipment, surgeons, physicians, nurses, quality improvement staffing, infrastructure, and technology, with continuous education, required to maintain certification. Oklahoma ranks eighth in the rate of stroke throughout the US, and six Oklahomans die from a stroke everyday, according to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). However, very few hospitals nationwide attain designation as a Comprehensive Certified Stroke Center by the nation’s most stringent healthcare accreditation agency, The Joint Commission. Despite over 6,000 hospitals in the US, around 1,400-1,500 have Stroke Centers, yet there are only around 145 Joint Commission Certified Stroke Centers nationwide. Daryl Thompson, MD, Medical Director, and Errol Gordon, MD, Vice Medical Director of the Heyman Stroke Center, led the Stroke Center to achieve the highest Certification during its rigorous Joint Commission onsite review for recertification. Measuring minutes to mitigate effects from a stroke begins as soon as a patient arrives at the ER or by ambulance. “Since brain tissue can be lost by the minute, we continuously strive to ensure every patient experiencing a stroke receives immediate care, counted by the minute” says Dr. Thompson. Acute stroke treatment involves the timely administration of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) or the “clot busting drug”, a standardof-care drug which reduces disability, and as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, St. John Medical Center is able to perform mechanical thrombectomies which is a highly specialized and life saving procedure reserved for the most severe stroke patients. “The Ascension St. John Heyman Stroke Center has invested in leading clinicians and equipment to become a comprehensive multidisciplinary program dedicated to improving overall outcomes for patients suffering from a stroke,” says Dr. Thompson. The advanced certification demonstrates Ascension St. John’s commitment to ensure our stroke patients receive the best possible care, treatment, and therapy.

Ascension St. John uses a multidisciplinary group of specialists in the fields of vascular neurology, general neurology, neurocritical care, neurosurgery, interventional neuroradiology, neuroimaging, Stroke Team hospitalists, rehabilitation, emergency medicine, social work, pharmacy and nutrition, to orchestrate a coordinated approach to care for complex stroke patients. “Many advanced health systems do not have a Neuro-Intensive Care Neurologist,” explained Errol Gordon, MD, Medical Director of the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit. “Ascension St. John Medical Center now has two which is rare. We are also working on developing a Neurocritical Care fellowship and Neurology Residency to further expand access to excellent care.” Fellowship trained at Columbia University Medical Center, and practiced and led the Neuro Intensive Care Unit at Mt. Sinai in New York City before moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dr. Gordon leads the dedicated Neurological Intensive Critical Care Unit and hospital care for patients who have experienced a stroke until patients graduate to a special floor to be cared for by hospitalists specially trained in delivering stroke care. “Ascension St. John Broken Arrow has one of the most advanced MRI machines available to The Heyman Stroke Center, continued 17 CARE EXCELLENCE provide advanced neuroimaging upon a patient’s arrival,” explains Ascension St. John Broken Arrow and Owasso Hospitals President, David Phillips. “A patient can enter our Emergency Room, receive one of the highest levels of advanced imaging, receive treatment by our team, or be transferred to the Ascension St. John Medical Center if needed. Before the patient even arrives to the Medical Center, physicians and radiologists can review patient imaging, via a secure website and application on their cell phone to see where a blockage may be located in the patient’s brain to begin preparing for the patient’s arrival.” Interventional Radiologists at Ascension St. John stand ready to care for patients and remove clots. “Our Stroke Team can immediately begin preparing for a patient on their way to the Ascension St. John Medical Center,” says Dr. Thompson.

Growing up in Louisiana, Dr. Thompson stated, “I’ll always remember my grandma telling me not to make patients wait when I became a physician. She would sometimes have to wait until the end of the day to receive care.” Dr. Thompson took his grandmother’s message and his desire to provide excellent patient care within a matter of minutes to heart by becoming a fellowship trained Vascular Neurologist at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Notably, Ascension St. John Stroke Center Clinic is the only Outpatient Stroke Clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and helps patients through the recovery process after discharge from the hospital. Ascension St. John also has a Joint Commission Stroke Certified Rehabilitation Center. Excellence in Stroke care requires a team-based approach from everyone involved, from physicians and nurses, to therapy providers including Physical and Occupational Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, and Respiratory Therapists.

Ascension St. John’s Inpatient Therapy service lines go above and beyond to care for patients. During the Joint Commission survey, the Joint Commission complimented the team on how a Speech Language Pathologist went above and beyond to have an eye gaze communication board donated from the University of Tulsa for a patient with locked-in syndrome so the patient could communicate. She set it up, taught the patient, staff, and even the long term care facility representative where the patient went upon discharge how to use the board. To educate clinical providers throughout Eastern Oklahoma, Ascension St. John recently hired another community educator, in addition to its inpatient and outpatient Stroke RN Navigator roles, to teach clinical teams, community hospitals, first responders, and others about Ascension St. John’s stroke protocols since minutes matter. In addition to Joint Commission Certification, Ascension St. John also earned the American Heart Association’s Get With the Guidelines Stroke Gold Plus Award. This award recognizes Ascension St. John’s excellence in providing stroke care to patients utilizing the most appropriate treatments according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines from the latest scientific evidence.

While there is a shortage of Neurologists nationwide, Jason King, MD, shines as a fellowship trained Vascular Neurologist from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. After receiving excellent training, Dr. King wanted to return to his community to give back. Dr. King chose to join Ascension St. John Jane Phillips after completing a Vascular Neurology Fellowship. Dr. King helps cover the hospital with Stroke consults to determine if patients may need to be transferred to the highest level of care possible in Eastern Oklahoma certified by the Joint Commission. However, since Dr. King serves the Bartlesville area, he helps ensure as many patients as possible get to remain in their own community, in Bartlesville. Consequently, patients only have to be transferred from Bartlesville to Tulsa out of medical need. “At Ascension St. John, our entire health system works together to provide patients the highest level of Stroke Care,” says Jeff Nowlin, Ascension St. John CEO. “Whether receiving care from a fellowship-trained neurologist in Bartlesville, receiving the highest level of imaging in Broken Arrow, having your scans arrive before you do from Sapulpa or Owasso, or receiving the most advanced Stroke Care in Eastern Oklahoma at Ascension St. John Medical Center, our commitment to quality care, health equity, and a multidisciplinary team approach to care is recognized through the Medical Center’s Joint Commission Stroke Certification and makes us very proud to serve Oklahoma.”

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