How to Stay Current with the Rapidly Changing Science of Stroke

Keeping up with the rapidly changing science of stroke care is difficult.  Studies published in the last 3 years have dramatically changed the standard of care of patients with ischemic stroke alone, not to mention the studies published in intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) and subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) management.  Staying current with the changing science of stroke care is even more challenging for nurses and physicians who do not have full-text access to medical literature databases (e.g. PubMed) or the financial means to attend multiple conferences each year to hear the science presented live.  Finally, many stroke leaders are so overwhelmed with the daily work of managing a stroke program, they don’t have time to sit and search for new evidence.  So, how does one keep up?  The answer is actually pretty straightforward: plan your time and set yourself up to work smarter at reviewing the literature, not harder!

  1. Get off the hamster wheel of managing your program! You must deliberately plan time into your monthly or quarterly schedule to search for new studies, guidelines and regulatory activities into your schedule.  Schedule protected time into your calendar to search and to read the literature you find!  Maybe you reserve a ½ day once a month or once every other month.   Maybe it’s an hour every other week if that works better for you.  It’s up to you how you structure your time, but you must SCHEDULE this work.  Once scheduled, do not let meetings, data review or other duties to take priority.  Treat this time as just as important as your other duties.  You must remain a clinical expert in stroke!
  2. Learn how to use medical search engines. Even if you don’t work at an academic institution, you should be able to access resources to assist with this work. Librarians at your local medical library (or even regular library) often have experience with online medical search engines such as OVID PubMed, CINAHL, Scopus, and they will often meet with you to give a tutorial for free or a reasonable cost.  If this is not an option, spend some time on Google and YouTube.  Both have short tutorials to teach you how to best search for literature in the common online databases.  You may be able to download some articles for free, and pay a small price for others.  See this link for a great overview of multiple search engines:
  3. Work smarter, not harder! Many of the search engines above allow you to save a search and be alerted frequently when new information meets your search criteria.  You can limit your searches to certain types of studies on a topic (e.g. randomized controlled trials), save your search and ask the database to alert you with new studies.  To use this feature, you generally need to create a profile with the program and you perform searches once logged in.  This way, you do not have to re-create your searches over and over again!
  4. Subscribe to organizational distribution lists and maintain your professional memberships. Maintaining membership with professional organizations offers you access to email updates, lit-serves and free access to the organization’s journal.  For example, if you are a member of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, you can access the Stroke journal and receive notification of new guideline publications.  Strategically plan which organizations you will join annually and use the resources provided!
  5. Subscribe to our blog, Twitter and Facebook! We will use our social media and blog to bring you useful information on managing your program and stroke care in general. Through our eBooks, consultative sessions and weekly postings, we hope to create a community of stroke leaders who help each other stay current!

With some thought and planning, you can set yourself up to stay current with new studies in stroke care.  By staying current, you will improve the care you provide individual patients and make changes in your program’s key documents such as order sets and protocols so all patients receive evidence-based and current care!  Happy searching!