Code STEMI, Code Stroke, and Code Sepsis – Tips for Med Surg Nurses

by | Jun 12, 2018 | Podcasts, Med-Surg | 2 comments

This podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, PlayerFM, iHeartRadio, Libsyn, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

Who You’ll Hear

Kati Kleber, MSN RN– Nurse educator, former cardiac med-surg/stepdown and neurocritical care nurse, author, and speaker.

Melissa Stafford, BSN RN CCRN SCRN – highly experienced and currently practicing nationally certified neurocritical care nurse.

Elizabeth Mills, BSN RN CCRN – highly experienced neurocritical care nurse, current Stroke Navigator for a Primary Stroke Center.

Code STEMI, Code Stroke, and Code Sepsis – Tips for Med Surg Nurses

In this episode, Elizabeth (former code-team nurse) takes the lead in discussing what’s important for new nurses to know about STEMI, stroke, and sepsis. We discuss nursing care and the big three – Code STEMI, Code Stroke, and Code Sepsis.  Please note, this episode was recorded in January 2017, and reflective of the latest evidence at that time. The best practices surrounding treatment of these evolve continually and we encourage you to ensure you’re referring to the latest evidence and facility policy while providing patient care.


  • STEMI = ST-elevated Myocardial Infarction
  • American Heart Association – Recommendation for Criteria for STEMI Systems of Care
  • Symptoms – a non-exhaustive list
    • Chest pain
    • SOB
    • Diaphoresis
    • Atypical symptoms (back or epigastric pain)
  • STAT 12-lead will confirm and is required
  • Time to diagnosis to intervention is critical
  • Notify MD immediately for them or cardiology to review ECG; notify cath team/rapid response
  • Need a working IV, preferably 2 and get them on a monitor and full vitals
  • MONA is mentioned (morphine – oxygen – nitroglycerin – aspirin) but is not a hard and fast rule
  • May give a beta blocker and/or heparin
  • Goal to get to cath lab as fast as possible to stent/restore myocardial blood flow
  • Time is of the essence!

Code Stroke

  • Ischemic and hemorrhagic
  • American Stroke Association Guidelines and Statements
  • Time is brain, people!
  • Various scales to measure signs/symptoms    at different points of contact
    • NIHSS, FAST, Cincinnati Stroke Scale
  • Symptoms – a non-exhaustive list
    • Arm drift
    • Slurred speech
    • Facial droop
  • Blood sugar and vitals first – hypoglycemia can mimic stroke
  • Get nursing help! Rapid response, charge nurse, notify MD
  • Last known normal time is critical if you’re getting a history from the family/loved ones
  • Patient will need a CT – transport them yourself, do not wait for transport
  • Patient should be on a monitor with frequent vital
  • Neurologist/MD should be evaluating if the patient is a candidate for tPA and/or intervention (like a thrombectomy)
  • Very important to know blood pressure! May need to decrease it to qualify for tPA
  • If you’re not sure – get another set of experienced eyes on the patient, STAT!

More Neuro Resources

FreshRN Podcast episodes specifically related to neuro:

Neuro-specific blog posts:

Code Sepsis

  • Journal of the American Medicine Association (JAMA) – Management of Sepsis and Septic Shock, updated February 2017
  • Overwhelming immune system response to a pathogen; unable to turn down the immune system and organs are not appropriately perfused and therefore you have end-organ damage
  • Recognition, timing, essential
    • Easily overlooked
  • Communicate concerns to MD, bring another set of eyes in if you’re not sure
  • Important points
    • Altered LOC, RR >22/min, SBP < 100 mmHg, fever
    • Labs – lactate, cultures, procalcitonin
    • Antibiotics!
  • Definition of Core Measures – Joint Commission
  • Sepsis Alliance – TONS of great information here!
  • What Nurses Need to Know About Sepsis – FreshRN Podcast interview with two doctorate-prepared nurses who are highly experienced in sepsis


More Resources for New Med Surg Nurses

Are you a new Med-Surg nurse?

MSM Video

Med-Surg Mindset from FreshRN is the ultimate resource for nurses new to this complex and dynamic acute care nursing specialty. Whether you are fresh out of nursing school or an experienced nurse starting out in med-surg for the first time, the learning curve is steep. With input from three experienced bedside nurses, this comprehensive course is all you need to learn all of the unspoken and must-know information to become a safe, confident, and successful medical-surgical nurse.

Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.


  1. Rodica

    Hello Kati,
    This is Rodca Negrut from Michigan, an international nurse who has got an RN license in the USA in May 2020. I worked with no license in a private outpatient clinic for oncology hematology doctors for 5 years and in private duty home care palliative, hospice care in MI. In my home country, I worked in the ER and Med Surge for 6 years. In 2020 September I was accepted in Med Surge unite, Troy Beaumont Hospital. I started orientation for a couple of weeks in they pooled me in Acute care COVID 19 with no hospital training and experience in the USA. They implemented disaster protocol and I didn’t have any choice. After 13 weeks the manager told me I am dismissed with no specific explanations. I worked very hard with Covid pat, sometimes with no N/A and I felt I used. I applied for a job again in the Cardio and Oncology and Progress care units and I was accepted. The problem is they offer only 3-4 weeks of orientations and for me is not safe. I don’t know what to do, what to choose, I love to work but I am scared of previous experience. I would like to take your online review courses. I really need your advice. Do your online courses are approved by the Michigan Board of Nurses?
    Thank you very much for your nice job to help nurses, for a fresh RN site.
    Best regard and happy new year.

    • FreshRN Team

      Our CE’s are provided in conjunction with Skills on Point, LLC and is approved as a provider of continuing nursing education by the Ohio Nurses Association, an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation (ANCC). (OBN-001-91). Most state boards of nursing recognize anything approved by the ANCC as acceptable and since awarding CE’s in 2018 have not had a BON state it was not acceptable. If you’re not sure but want to check on your specific state requirements, as all 50 state BON’s have different ones, head to your state board of nursing’s website and look for “Continuing Education Requirements” or “License Renewal Requirements”.


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