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MultiCare Profiles: With stroke care, Kiesz sees the difference

Posted on Sep. 12, 2012 ( comments)
Stroke Program Coordinator Karen Kiesz, right, and Yelena Karyavyy, RN, talk Tuesday at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital.

In the small details of daily life, Karen Kiesz sees the difference that treatment can make for stroke patients.

When they grasp a spoon to eat a bite of ice cream.

When they pick up a pen to sign their name.

When they squeeze their grandchild’s hand.

“With stroke, the thing that everybody fears is a disability,” said Kiesz, RN, MN, CNRN, and Stroke Program Coordinator at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital and Allenmore Hospital. “If we can minimize the effects of stroke and make a difference with our treatment, then that’s really the driving force behind our program.”

That belief is reinforced when Kiesz crosses paths with former patients.

One elderly woman remains special to Kiesz. They first met in 2008, shortly after Kiesz became Stroke Program Coordinator. The woman was undergoing emergency treatment for stroke. At that time, the woman’s outcome was uncertain. About two years later, Kiesz again crossed paths with the woman, who had made a strong recovery and was doing well.

“I could see the difference we made in the quality of her life,” Kiesz said. “It’s encouraging, because not only did our stroke program make a difference in the short term when she was in the hospital, but we made a difference for her in the long term. Seeing those outcomes can be really inspiring. “

A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks stopping blood flow to the brain. The longer that blood flow is interrupted, the more brain cells die and the more damage can occur. A quick response correlates to better recovery, summed up by the slogan, “Time is brain.”

At MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, a comprehensive approach to stroke care includes 24/7 neurointerventional radiology capabilities with physicians, nurses and technologists acting as a team. Tacoma General is certified as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission and is categorized as a Level 1 (Comprehensive) Stroke Center by the Washington State Department of Health – the highest level available.

As Stroke Program Coordinator, Kiesz is responsible for assuring that the Primary Stroke Center is in compliance with all regulations and requirements, and that it’s consistently prepared to deliver the highest quality patient care.

It's that constant evolution that motivates Kiesz. She says MultiCare’s stroke program will continue to evolve with advances in medicine and MultiCare's stroke research through the MultiCare Institute for Research & Innovation

“It seems like every year there’s something new with stroke – a device or a new procedure we can do,” Kiesz said. “I really like being involved in the research aspect, because the advances in stroke care are getting better all the time. I really feel my role is to make sure the hospital is prepared to meet the next challenge, and have cutting-edge treatment and guidelines in place to give the best care for any type of stroke patient.”

In addition to her other responsibilities, Kiesz serves as a resource to Department of Health personnel, stroke coordinators and hospitals in Washington State, as well as providing stroke education to hospitalized patients and the community at large. In the latter capacity, she was co-chair of Strength Through Stroke, a 3K walk that raises funds in support of young stroke survivors. She is also is a nationally recognized leader in stroke care and has presented posters and lectured at national nursing conferences.

Kiesz first joined MultiCare Health System in 1988 as a clinical nurse in the Critical Care Unit at Tacoma General Hospital. Throughout her more than two decades with MultiCare, she has stayed on the front lines of care for seriously ill and injured patients, as a clinical nurse in the critical care unit, trauma case manager and trauma program manager. By assisting in the coordination of the Certified Neuroscience Nursing program, she’s also helped ensure that Tacoma General Hospital’s program continues to be ranked among the top five in the nation.

Learn more about MultiCare’s stroke program.

MultiCare Profiles: Through these stories, we aim to highlight people who exemplify our values and help contribute to our overall mission of providing quality care for patients and their families. If you know someone who should be considered for MultiCare Profiles, send us an email.

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