Provision of Holistic Nursing Care In Stroke Management


This assignment will use a holistic problem-solving approach to analyse how nursing skills and psychosocial theories can be steely utilised to deliver effective nursing care and effective assessment, planning and evaluation of care influences the patient experience. The importance of stroke management and the prevention of further reoccurrence will addressed and elaborate upon.  The assignment will highlight the holistic role of nurses in nursing for a patient with stroke within the first 72 hours – the acute phase. In addition, the importance role of multi-disciplinary team and the effectiveness of communication role of the nurse will be viewed.

Overview of CVA

Jean was diagnosis with massive ischemic stroke which is inadequate blood flow to the part of the brain and consequently has suffered loss of mobility, permanent loss of movement and loss of communication. Ischemia stoke is a life-threatening event in which part of the brain does not receive enough oxygen due to a blood clot lodged in the cerebral artery, as a result the brain is deprived of oxygen, due to hypoperfusion, hypoxia, and eventual cell death secondary to a failure of energy production.

The blood clot may have formed in a thrombus to narrowed due atherosclerosis which is the hardening of the arteries causing a thrombotic stroke or the blot clot may have lodge in artery after travelling through bloodstream from another part of the body which will result in an embolic stroke. Deficits from stroke may involve weakness or paralysis, decreased sensation, decreased memory, decreased ability to think, speak, or eat (REF). Therefore a thorough understanding of stroke’s pathphysiology, presentation, investigation, current and future treatments and holistic management is crucial for nurses.

Brief account of CVA

It is important for nurses to understand the anatomy and physiology of normal brain function in order to understand why stroke/cerebral vascular accident occur. Brain tissue needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to keep nerve cells and other parts of the tissue alive and functioning. The brain relies on a network of blood vessels to provide it with blood that is rich in oxygen. A stroke occurs when one of these blood vessels becomes damaged or blocked, preventing blood from reaching an area of the brain. When that part of the brain is cut off from its supply of oxygen for more than three to four minutes, it begins to die.

Cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is a disruption of blood circulation to the brain or commonly known as stroke. Stroke is a condition in which neurological deficits occur as a result of decreased blood flow to localized area of brain tissue. There are two kinds of strokes – ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic is where clot forms in a blood vessel of the brain, preventing blood flow and oxygen while hemorrhagic is where a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, releasing blood. In both kinds of strokes, the longer the patient waits before getting medical attention, the more tissue in the brain that dies.

“Massive stroke” refers to a stroke in which many brain tissues have died, causing irreversible damage. A hemorrhagic stroke, or cerebral hemorrhagic, occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or bleeds. Like ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes interrupt the brain’s blood supply because the bleeding vessel can no longer carry the blood to its target tissue. In addition, blood irritates brain tissue, disrupting the delicate chemical balance, and, if the bleeding continues, it can cause increased intracranial pressure which physically impinges on brain tissue and restricts blood flow into the brain. In this respect, hemorrhagic strokes are more dangerous than ischemic strokes. There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke: intracerebral hemorrhage, and subarachnoid hemorrhage (REF)

Intracerebral hemorrhage is bleeding directly into the brain tissue, forming a gradually enlarging hematoma (pooling of blood). It generally occurs in small arteries or arterioles and is commonly due to hypertension, trauma, bleeding disorders, angiopathy, illicit drug use for example amphetamines or cocaine, and vascular malformations. The hematoma enlarges until pressure from surrounding tissue limits its growth, or until it decompresses by emptying into the ventricular system and cerebrospinal fluid. A third of intracerebral bleed is into the brain’s ventricles.

Subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding into the cerebrospinal fluid of the subarachniod space surrounding the brain. The two most common causes of subarachnoid hemorrhage are rupture of aneurysm ( a bulge in a blood vessel that bursts usually near the brain) from the base of the brain and bleeding from vascular formations near the pial surface. Bleeding into the cerebralspinal fluid from a ruptured aneurysm occurs very quickly, causing rapidly increased intracranial pressure. The bleeding usually only lasts a few seconds but rebleeding is common. Death or deep coma ensues if the bleeding continues. Hemorrhage from other sources is less abrupt and may continue for a longer period of time.

This type of stoke is caused mostly by hypertension  which is increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure which is associated with damage to all blood vessels, including the cerebral vessels. There are other factors which may contributes to hemorrhagic cerebral vascular accident include ruptured intracranial aneurysms, embolic cerebral vascular accident, brain tumours, anticoagulant therapy and (REF).

Other risk factors for stroke involve age and sex. The risk of stroke increases with increasing age, doubling for each decade after age 55. Women are more likely to have a stroke than men. This is because strokes mostly happen in the older ages. Woman have longer life expectancy that men, which them longer lives that lead to old age and therefore experience stroke. However, men who were stricken by stroke at their early age increase their risk due to their drinking and eating habits as well as smoking, of which both reflect their lifestyle. On the other hand, Heredity blacks, Asians, and Hispanics all have higher rates of stroke than do whites, related partly to higher blood pressure, but researchers still haven’t known the association of these particular populations which having stroke more frequently.

People with a family history of stroke are at greater risk., predisposing diseases or other medical conditions, and lifestyle choices. Stroke risk is increased for people with heart disease (especially atrial fibrillation), prior stroke, or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). Risk of stroke increases tenfold for someone with one or more TIAs. This is because TIA’s are often caused by a clotting in a persons blood vessel or artery which may develop slowly or rapidly.  According to the Office of Communications and Public Liaison (2007), TIA’s are tell-tale signs of a more serious stroke caused by high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, heart disease, carotid artery disease, diabetes, and heavy use of alcohol.

Occurrence of TIA’s should be immediately consulted to the doctor since this can occur once, multiple times, or precede a permanent stroke. According to MedicineNet Inc. (2002), TIA’s can damage body parts such as:

“a clot to the eye (which) can cause temporary visual loss, involves the carotid artery that produce problems with movement or sensation on one side of the body,  paralysis of the arm, leg, and face, all on one side, double vision, dizziness (vertigo) and loss of speech, understanding, and balance.”

Stroke risk also increases with obesity, high blood cholesterol level, or high red blood cell count, diabetes and lifestyle choices such as cigarette smoking (especially if combined with the use of oral contraceptives), low level of physical activity, alcohol consumption above two drinks per day, or use of cocaine or intravenous drugs.

Stroke and diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder, specifically affecting carbohydrate metabolism. It is a disease characterised by persistent hyperglacemia also refer to as high glucose blood sugar. People with diabetes are at increased risk of stroke because diabetes adversely affects the arteries, predisposing them to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries (REF). Multiple studies have shown that people with diabetes are at greater risk for stroke compared to non-diabetics regardless of the number of risk factors they have. Overall, the risk of cardiovascular disease like stroke is two and a half times higher in men and women with diabetes compared to people without diabetes.

According to a study carried out in Sweden by Sundquist, Johansson & Sundquist (2006), it was found that young to middle-aged persons with type 1 diabetes had a considerably higher risk of developing premature stroke than those without type 1 diabetes. Therefore it is important that nurses and other physicians should be aware that young to middle-aged persons with type 1 diabetes need specific attention to reduce the risk of premature stroke. In addition, middled-aged persons is twice as prone to stroke than those who already have a heart attack.

In this case, diabetics should be very very careful with their health and diet for the risk is much more dangerous in the second stroke attack. It will eventually lead to death. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (2005) explained the connection between diabetes, heart disease, and stroke which says that:

“High blood glucose levels over time can lead to increased deposits of fatty materials on the insides of the blood vessel walls. These deposits may affect blood flow, increasing the chance of clogging and hardening of blood vessels (atherosclerosis).”

However, in a literature review by Mankovsky and Ziegler (2004) it was stated that there is convincing evidence suggesting that diabetes mellitus represent a strong independent risk factor of stroke even though the contribution of hyperglycaemia to increase stroke is not proven but it was proven by Tuomiletho et. al (1996) that people with diabetes who have a stroke often fare worse than non-diabetics as they have higher hospital stay, long term stroke mortality and pronounced residual neurological deficits, severe disability and prolonged hospital stay after stroke compared to patients without diabetes.

Signs & symptoms

The symptoms of stroke depend on the type of stroke and the area of the brain affected. Ischemic strokes usually only affect regional areas of the brain perfused by the blocked artery while  hemorrhagic strokes can affect local areas, but often can also cause more global symptoms due to bleeding and increased intracranial pressure. Depending on the severity of the stroke, patients can experience a loss of consciousness, cognitive deficits, speech dysfunction, limb weakness, hemiplegia, vertigo, lower cranial nerve dysfunction, gaze deviation, ataxia, hemianopia, and aphasia among others. Among others, sudden weakness or numbness of your face, arm, or leg on one side of your body, sudden confusion, trouble talking, or trouble understanding, sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or trouble walking, sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes or sudden double vision and sudden severe headache may mean that you have had a stroke.

Stroke Impacts and Complications

Strokes are deadly or fatal. Aside from the high cost of hospitalization, medicines and caregivers, it will cause loss of work, enjoyability and quality of lifestyle and loss of independence. During these attacks,  the weakness or numbness of your face, arm, or leg on one side of your body will have an impact in the patients muscles resulting to difficulty in swallowing.  The abnormal swallowing then affects the way the patient talks which is characterized by slurred speech. If not taken well care of, the swallowed food or saliva will instead go down into the wind pipe which will develop into pneumonia making the patient more fragile.

During an acute ischemic stroke the brain stem may have a very clog vein and blood flows very slowly which puts the patient in a state of comatose. This is the state of unconsciousness, where the patient cannot awaken nor fail to respond to any interactions around and towards him. He is a vegetative state that he cannot react even to pain. Malik and Hess (2002) described coma due to ischemic stroke as:

“Large middle cerebral artery infarction with brain herniation, brainstem stroke involving bilateral rostral pons or midbrain and “Top of the basilar” syndrome with bilateral infarction of thalami and rostral midbrain.”

They further described coma as Coma results from one of two pathophysiologic mechanisms: a diffuse insult to both cerebral hemispheres or a focal lesion involving the ascending reticular activating system (ARAS) located in the upper pons, midbrain, and diencephalon. A lesion in one cerebral hemisphere will not produce coma; bihemispheric dysfunction is required. In most studies of comatose patients, the “big three” causes of coma are stroke, cranial trauma, and drug intoxication. Many stroke patients are left with permanent problems such as hemiplegia (weakness on one side of the body), aphasia (difficulty or the inability to speak), or incontinence of the bowel and/or bladder. A significant number of persons become unconscious and die following a major stroke. (MedicineNet, 2002)

During the stage of healing, a stroke patient constantly lays in bed and prolonged immobility which will sometimes develop pressure sores. Pressure sores are  breakdown of the skin, called decubitus ulcers. This happens when the skin that is constantly pressured cuts off the flow of blood to that area, blocking oxygen and vital nutrients from maintaining healthy tissue. When the tissue becomes starved to too long a period of time it begin to die and a pressure sore starts to form. Pressure Sore is serious and therefore, should not be ignored before it gets worst and goes down into the bones. With this pain and abnormalities appearing in the patients body, he will not only be sick physically but also emotionally. These patients are very prone to depression.

Communication with patient

After the trauma of stroke getting the right information is vital for the best recovery. And some of that information can quite literally help patient to with psychological effect of stroke and save save life (). Moreover, Nurses in the Untied Kingdom have a professional responsibility to ensure that patients in there are given information about their condition and understand the risks and implications of any intervention required. Nurses also have a responsibility to gain the consent of patients for whom they are a duty of care (NMC 2002).

There have been many organizations that focus on the needs of the ill older adults. NHS organizations in England recognizes the importance of the NSF for Older People and the emerging practice and policies related to this, such as Intermediate Care, the single assessment process, the 1999 Health Act Flexibilities and has responded by re-focusing its activity to realign more closely with the local and national priorities. (Department of Health, 2005) Published in 2001, this NSF focuses on people who are over 50 and still active but who need to be able to maximize and maintain their health as well as people with age related needs who may have more complex social and medical problems. (Department of Health, 2005)

The Department of Health, Services and Social Safety applies palliative care services which aims to achieve the best quality of life possible for patients and their family through active identification, holistic assessment and appropriate management of problems, when progressive advanced disease is not responsive to curative treatment.

In summary

A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to any part of the brain. This causes parts of the brain to die from lack of oxygen. A “massive” stroke would be where a large area of brain has died. Symptoms would depend on what area of the brain is affected but a massive stroke would be very damaging. Holistic care provides a comprehensive check up and caring for a person with illness. While it has been a practice to treat an illness separately, holistic approach can very well trace prevent or cure other related problems which also affects the health problem. Through holistic care plans, it gives the patient a sense of ownership of which, when educated, the patient will be well aware of the symptoms, cause and effect of a certain problem. The sense of ownership will encourage a patient to cure himself and prevent further damage to ones health.

Healthy communication with the patient and healthy environment keeps the patient’s mind active and stimulated. Here Nightingale stresses that communication should be soothing and a form of therapeutic aid to the patient’s suffering. How the nurses interact with the patient, may it be verbally or non-verbally also plays a role in the patient’s recovery. They were to give comfort and ease the patient’s suffering. She adds that there is a need for social awareness or social education on the disease of the patient, his family or the immediate people of that environment

Nurses are there to control the environment and give the patients their basic needs to aid patients in their healing process and achieving their former strength. Nurses are not only to be focused on controlling the environment for the patient, but also in disseminating helpful information about the important aspects of the disease to the patient, the family and immediate community. Within Nightingale’s nursing theory are the assumptions that are significant to applying the theory. First and foremost, Nightingale stresses on the need to understand that a disease is a reparative process. An inflicted goes through the natural healing process and those sufferings are indications of the body healing itself. The patient then needs energy to deal with this healing and an unhealthy environment will only bring him stress and lessen his much needed energy to recuperate.

Another is the need for a nurse to be sensible and highly observant of his patient. If a nurse has these abilities, then she will be more focused and effective in her goal of balancing the right and healthy environment for the patient. Nursing is a calling to those who have the determination to help. A sensible nurse would take the initiative to think ways of keeping the patient’s mind active and optimistic despite his sufferings. Nightingale also gives emphasis on the important fact that nursing is a practice apart from medicine. The nurse’s concentration is on the patient’s reparative process and not the disease itself.


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