Agreement between ambulance nurses and physicians in assessing stroke patients
If an ambulance nurse could bypass the emergency department (ED) and bring suspected stroke patients directly to a CT scanner, time to thrombolysis could be shortened. This study evaluates the level of agreement between ambulance nurses and emergency physicians in assessing the need for a CT scan, and interventions and monitoring beforehand, in patients with suspected stroke and/or a lowered level of consciousness.
From October 2008 to June 2009, we compared the ambulance nurses' and ED physicians' judgement of 200 patients with stroke symptoms. Both groups answered identical questions on patients' need for a CT scan, and interventions and monitoring beforehand.
There was poor agreement between ambulance nurses and ED physicians in judging the need for a CT scan: κ = 0.22 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.06–0.37). The nurses' ability to select the same patients as the physician for a CT scan had a sensitivity of 84% (95% CI, 77–89) and a specificity of 37% (95% CI, 23–53). Agreement concerning the need for interventions and monitoring was also low: κ = 0.32 (95% CI, 0.18–0.47). In 18% of cases, the nurses considered interventions before a CT scan unnecessary when the physicians' deemed them necessary.
Additional tools to support ambulance nurses decisions appear to be required before suspected stroke patients can be taken directly to a CT scanner.