Yo, it’s a stroke rap, y’all

UAB’s rapping nurse produces a new rap video that sends a serious message about stroke care.

Craig Barton is a rapper on a mission. The University of Alabama at Birmingham nurse/rap master is rapping about stroke care in a new video designed to educate and draw awareness to the importance of recognizing stroke as a medical emergency. The video, shot at UAB Hospital, features hospital staff, paramedics, helicopter pilots and even the occasional doctor as back-up singers and dancers to Barton’s rap.

The stroke rap was commissioned by Anne Alexandrov, Ph.D., professor in the School of Nursing and head of NET SMART, an educational program on acute stroke for nurses. Alexandrov wants the video to be entertaining, especially for the health care professionals who treat stroke every day, but she also wants it to be a clarion call for the important role of nurses in acute stroke management.

“I hope this video will capture the experience of providing acute stroke care from the time a patient enters the hospital all the way until they walk out the door to go home,” she says. “I believe it will touch the lives of those who see it not only from an entertainment standpoint, but also from an information standpoint.”

Alexandrov equipped Barton with a list of bullet points associated with stroke – the signs and symptoms and terms like aphasia and intravenous tPA, the clot-busting drug. Barton then went to work to weave his rap magic.

“I take those bullet points and spin them around as if I’m working a puzzle, deciding what should go where,” he says. “Then I put in some words that rhyme and voila, you have a song.”

The video was shot over two days throughout the hospital, anywhere a stroke patient might be seen, from the helo pad to the emergency department, to operating rooms and the specialized stroke unit.

That’s another important message to the rap: stroke patients need specialized care, at specialized facilities with staff trained in acute stroke management. Andrei Alexandrov, M.D., the director of the UAB Comprehensive Stroke Center and Anne’s husband, says that stroke needs to be viewed in much the same light as heart attack and trauma, as an emergency that requires an advanced level of care.

“That starts with public recognition of the seriousness of stroke, and goes on to paramedics, emergency departments and hospitals capable of recognizing a stroke and able to provide acute stroke care in a rapid fashion,” he says. “We need physician extenders, advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, clinical staff nurses and other educated health professionals trained in stroke to evaluate patients and deliver specialized care.”

Anne Alexandrov says that specialized stroke care is not available at many hospitals in the United States. For example, she says that only about four percent of stroke patients ever receive tPA, the only drug proven to help reduce neurologic damage from stroke. One of the successes of the Net SMART program is that it is responsible for one of the most robust increases in tPA treatment rates since the drug was approved for use. Evidence, says Alexandrov, that highly educated and clinically skilled stroke nurses can have a major impact on stroke treatment and survival.

A rap video is a fun way to draw attention to the seriousness of stroke, she says, and it packs a serious take-home message.

“I hope people look at this video and say, ‘Gosh, I don’t ever want to have a stroke, but if I do or someone I love does, I now know the signs and symptoms of stroke.  I know about tPA and that I should discuss it with the hospital staff. And I know I should call 9-1-1 so I can get to the right hospital, one with specialized stroke expertise so I can be treated appropriately.’”

This is the third rap video Barton has produced at UAB. The first featured the emergency department; the second is an overview of the entire hospital.

The stroke rap video will be posted on the NET SMART website upon completion and will be available on YouTube by early summer.

For patient information, go to www.uabmedicine.org.