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At University of Minnesota Medical Center, stroke risk class focuses on prevention and recovery

During the class, stroke patients discuss future prevention and lifestyle choices in one-on-one instruction.
In a specialized one-on-one class with stroke patients at University of Minnesota Medical Center, nurses provide education on stroke prevention, medications and healthy lifestyle choices.

For care providers, uninterrupted time with a patient is the best kind of time with a patient.

That’s exactly why nurse educators are meeting one-on-one with stroke patients at the University of Minnesota’s Medical Center’s Patient Learning Center.

In a specialized class, nurses provide education on stroke prevention, medications and healthy lifestyle choices. Terry Barlow, manager of the Patient Learning Center, believes the class is crucial to helping patients have a successful recovery and to prevent future stroke events.

“When we see patients at the center, we hope to discuss behavioral changes. We try to help them make decisions and make changes in their lives to help them reduce the stroke risk they face,” she said.

The class runs 45 minutes to an hour. While being treated at University of Minnesota Medical Center, patients can work with their care team to register for the class. Or, if patients are unable to take the class during their hospital stay, they can contact the Patient Learning Center following their discharge to sign up for a stroke education session. If stroke-related complications have made it difficult for the patient to comprehend the information, the class instructor will work with the patient’s caregiver.

The class focuses on five primary areas:

  • Personal risk factors for stroke
  • Warning signs and symptoms
  • When to call 911
  • How to take medicine
  • Follow up after hospital discharge

“The class brings together all these separate things they’ve been hearing in the hospital to create a clear picture on how they relate,” said Angi Heyer, RN, the stroke program coordinator. “We want them to know this is something we’re going to continue to work on.”

Learn more about University of Minnesota Health stroke care.

There are different educational points to cover, Heyer said, depending on the type of stroke—ischemic or hemorrhagic—the patient experienced. No matter the kind of stroke, educators work with patients to examine high-blood pressure, medicine, diet, exercise and cholesterol. Smoking, drugs, alcohol, stress and weight are also discussed.

The PLC also works with patients who had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)—an episode that is similar to a stroke but causes no permanent damage.

The class isn’t just for the patient, Heyer said.

“We really try to get the family there,” she said. “Often, everyone has the same kind of health habits in the family. We want the group to support each other.”

Barlow said the PLC works with more than 30 patients a month in the stroke class.

“Research has shown that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented,” Heyer said. “That’s really powerful. Anything we can do help educate through lifestyle changes to make an impact to help reduce stroke is really important.”