Team Coordinator Embodies Stroke Program’s Passion, Dedication to Exceptional Patient Care

Laurie Paletz, BSN, PHN, RN-BC, SCRN, Stroke Program Coordinator

It is an understatement to say Laurie Paletz, BSN, PHN, RN-BC, SCRN, is dedicated to stroke awareness and care. Her family can tell you – when they can't find her at home or work, chances are she's striking up conversations with strangers at the grocery store about stroke prevention.

Paletz, who has been Cedars-Sinai's Stroke Program coordinator since the Stroke Program's inception in 2003, has more than 30 years of nursing experience. She is a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse, a prestigious American Board of Neuroscience Nursing credential recognizing her depth of knowledge and breadth of training in stroke nursing.

She reviews manuscripts for the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses and is a founding member of its Los Angeles chapter. She is a National Task Force chairperson on the Education Committee for Comprehensive Stroke Centers.

She even coined the term "Code Brain," which is used throughout Cedars-Sinai to launch a rapid-response emergency team into immediate action on behalf of acute stroke patients.

This total dedication is more than just words on paper, though; it's interactions with patients such as Jerry Castro which truly reflect Paletz' hands-on care.

On the afternoon of March 17, 2014, Castro came into the Cedars-Sinai's emergency room with a drooping face, slurred speech, issues walking and numbness in his arm – classic signs of a stroke. After multiple tests, continuous monitoring and the failure of other treatments, the only way to save the 49-year-old was to thread a hair-thin catheter through his femoral artery and into his neck to remove the clot.

Paletz embraces former patient Jerry Castro during an event he requested to thank the Cedars-Sinai Stroke Program and Emergency Department teammembers for the care he received after having a stroke in March 2014.

After the operation and during his recovery, Paletz was there, offering up advice on the healing process, how to develop healthier habits, and making the lifestyle choices that will help him avoid another stroke and have the best possible quality of life. He still lives by those words.

"The stroke and emergency room nurses were with me from the moment I came into the hospital to the moment I left, and I am so appreciative of that," Castro said. "Since then, it's been tough, but I've been listening to Laurie, and I've joined the gym and I'm getting better every day."

According to Patrick D. Lyden, MD, director of the Stroke Program and the Department of Neurology chair, Paletz embodies the enthusiastic engagement that patients and their families need.

"Laurie is able to connect with families and patients," Lyden noted. "And that's regardless of whether the stroke has caused a longterm issue requiring rehabilitation, or if it's a hyper-crisis scenario in the midst of the emergency room with decisions that need to be made.

"She's able to span the spectrum and be totally engaged and trustworthy in the eyes of the family, pretty much from the minute they meet her."

As Stroke Program coordinator, Paletz is involved in community outreach events and educating Cedars-Sinai's staff about stroke and stroke prevention. She also helps patients and their families adjust to the changes associated with stroke.

"This job could be very administrative and hands-off, but I felt very strongly I didn't want to sit in my office, look at data and make phone calls all day," she explained. "I didn't want to stop interacting with patients, so I still round and I still respond to the pager. That is very important to me. How else would I know what's going on?"

Paletz is in charge of making sure Cedars-Sinai meets and exceeds the more than 200 quality measures and stroke care requirements set by the Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. The program's performance on these measures has led to its certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, as well as consistently earning the organizations' highest quality awards.

Paletz says she is aware that she is catapulted into people's lives without invitation, during what likely is the most vulnerable time they will experience. She counts it a privilege to assist them on this leg of their journey.

"I'm inspired by my patients every day," she said. "Their motivation and drive to get better keeps it real in your own life, and gives you a very different perspective. My job humbles and inspires me every day.

"What other kind of job can you say does that?"