Stroke Team assemble!

The Yarmouth Regional Hospital stroke team.


In a team of comic book heroes, each member has their own special super power, like the ability to fly, stretch like a rubber band or shoot laser beams from their eyes. When each hero uses their special skill as part of the team, the group can often save the galaxy. Or at least planet Earth on a slow day.

There are few slow days for an interdisciplinary health care team. They may not have capes or secret identities, but each member of the team has a unique talent or special power that helps the team provide care to a patient.

 “We are all looking through different lenses at the same thing,” said Lynette Amirault, clinical dietitian and member of the interdisciplinary stroke care team based at Yarmouth Regional Hospital.

Patients who are seen by the stroke team have the benefit of many different lenses. Stroke team members come from a number of disciplines (that’s why it’s called interdisciplinary, or inter-professional), and include a dietitian, internist, pharmacist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, recreation therapist, social worker and speech-language pathologist. Rounding out the team are the nursing staff, rehabilitation assistants, attending physicians and stroke coordinator.

While the Avengers might have a Hulk, the most powerful member of the stroke team is the patient, who guides the work of the team. 

“We meet with the patient to discuss what their goals are,” said Dr. Brian Moses, internist. “Then we make our work as a team align with the goals they have as a patient and family.”

Anyone who has had a stroke in Digby, Yarmouth or Shelburne counties will have some contact with the stroke team. Patients in the hospital meet with the full team weekly, but most work is done in smaller groups on a daily basis. Even when the entire team is not together, they still keep the objectives of the other members in mind when working with patients.

“If I know Katie (speech-language pathologist) is working toward improving communication, when I am with the patient I try to work toward that goal as well,” said Charlotte Stevens-Leblanc, recreation therapist.

Interdisciplinary teams like the stroke team can be found in hospitals, rehabilitation and restorative care units, primary care settings and long-term care -wherever patient care is provided.  Teams can be as small as a dynamic duo, such as a nurse practitioner and physician, or much larger with multiple members, like the stroke team.

The team approach also allows each member to learn from each other to improve their own skills and provide better care to patients.

“When a patient comes back to visit you after leaving the (stroke) unit, you know you had a positive impact on them,” said Katie Perkins, speech language pathologist.

Stroke team members were asked: What super power would you like to have to help stroke patients?

  • X-ray vision - Lynette Amirault, clinical dietitian. “I work closely with speech-language to assess a patient’s swallowing ability. I would like x-ray vision to see where the food is going and if there is any risk of aspiration (sucking food into the airway). 
  • Mind control - Maggie Arenburg, pharmacist. “I’m not sure what a Jedi mind trick is, but some form of mind control might help us increase a patient's understanding.”
  • Healing hands - Adam Becker, physiotherapy student.
  • Magic touch - Cindy Creaser, occupational therapist. “I would like to be able to help patients regain movement or ability in their limbs.”
  • Microscopic vision - Ashley Emin, pharmacy student. “Drugs work differently for each person. I would like to see down to the molecular level to see exactly how the drugs are working in each individual person.”
  • Predict the future - Kelly Goudy, RN, stroke care coordinator. “Progress can be slow and it can be such a long journey. I would like to be able to tell someone how long it will take.” 
  • Batman - Samantha Mason, social worker. “Batman, or at least Bruce Wayne. It would be nice to be a millionaire to help buy the supports people need, like ramps or other tools.”
  • Time control - Brian Moses, internist. “I wish you could press pause and stop or slow down time. Patients need time to understand. And we need time to explain to really help them understand.”
  • Mind reading - Katie Perkins, speech-language pathologist. “This would help with people who are having trouble communicating.” 
  • Force field - Charlotte Stevens-Leblanc, recreation therapist. “A protective bubble would help keep people safe when they are going home”