Introduction: Stroke: First Aid Guide
During my career as a certified nursing assistant, I had quite a few unpleasant experiences, and I learned that no matter how good you study, you won’t be able to save everyone. This is the sad truth that every health care practitioner understands, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. As a CNA, you will often be the first to notice a problem and take the steps necessary to save the patient’s life. Of course, you will learn many first aid techniques from your CNA classes, but at the most critical moment, you can lose your cool and this may cost someone their life.
In order to make sure that this doesn’t happen, you will need to improve your skills and train relentlessly. During my work, I discovered that many instructions CNAs are taught during class are unnecessarily complex and worded in such a way that remembering them when they are most needed will be difficult. This is why today, I want to share some simple instructions I designed myself after doing some extensive research of stroke first aid techniques. A stroke is something you will see rather often if you work in a nursing home, and the way you react to it will make a huge difference because in this case, the patient’s future will literally lie in your hands.
Step 1: Call for Help
All CNA classes teach you one very important thing: a stroke is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Every second counts in this case. This means that if you notice something that even remotely resembles a stroke, you must ensure that the patient receives immediate professional help. In a perfect case scenario, you need to send someone to call a doctor while you are performing the necessary procedures to ensure that the patient’s brain suffers as little damage as possible before help arrives. If there isn’t anyone capable of doing this, move on to the next step and call for help immediately after you make sure that the patient is stable and safe.
Step 2: Diagnose
There are many symptoms of a stroke, and a few of them (sudden headache, dizziness, nausea, etc.) can be caused by many other conditions. However, there is a simple test that can help you diagnose a stroke, as it often causes paralysis that affects one half of the body. Thus, to make sure that your patient is indeed suffering from this condition, ask them to do the following:
• Lift their arms
• Repeat a sentence after you
• Tell their name, age, and location
The first two tests will show you whether one half of the body is affected by paralysis, and the second will indicate whether there is any brain damage. Even if the patient can remember their personal information, slurred speech is a symptom that must be acknowledged.
Step 3: Position the Patient
If your patient is conscious, help them sit up and prop them up with pillows. Make sure that the patient’s head is positioned higher than their feet. Look out for any changes in the person’s condition and reassure them while waiting for help.
In case the patient loses consciousness (or if the person was unconscious from the beginning), put him or her in the recovery position.
• Put the patient on their back.
• Place the arm that is the farthest from you at the right angle to the person’s body.
• Place the second arm across the patient’s chest.
• Bend the leg that’s nearest to you at the knee.
• Leave the second leg straight.
• Support the patient’s head and neck and carefully roll them on their side (away from you).
This position will help keep the person’s airway clear. You must keep a close eye on the patient and check their airway personally to make sure that there is nothing obstructing it.
In case the patient has stopped breathing, start performing CPR.
Step 4: Keep the Patient Warm
You must cover the patient with a blanket/coat/sheet to keep their body temperature on a normal level. Sudden shifts in temperature caused by the damage from the stroke can cause a person to go into shock.
You will also need to loosen any tight clothing to make the patient feel more comfortable.
If you had no way of contacting help from the start, do this now, after you make sure that the area is safe for the patient.
Act as Fast as You Can
The speed of your reaction is essential when treating a stroke, as you will learn in your CNA classes, because the first hour will determine the amount of brain damage the patient suffers. Thus, providing immediate help is your foremost duty as a health care specialist.