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Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program: Emergency Medical Services

In the United States, stroke remains a leading cause of death and serious long-term disability. Long-term effects can include paralysis, speech impairments, and other serious health issues. EMS (emergency medical services) workers play a critical role in a patient’s survival

Logo for the Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program

Stroke and EMS

When 911 is called for a stroke patient, EMS is involved in the care and transport of that patient. EMS providers play a crucial role in helping people survive and in reducing long-term disabilities. It’s important for local EMS providers to know how to identify stroke victims. They need to make quick and accurate decisions on the care of the stroke patient, and determine the best hospital for care.

Unfortunately, less than one-half of all stroke patients in Wisconsin arrive at the emergency department by ambulance. EMS providers can play a huge role in educating the community. The public needs to recognize early warning signs of a stroke and the importance of calling 911.

Take the online training on Wisconsin Stroke Recognition for EMS Providers. This training focuses on stroke recognition and treatment for the EMS provider. The Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program created and offers this training. Participants earn one hour of continuing education credit.

Pre-hospital actions

When someone calls 911, emergency medical dispatch should be able to identify potential acute stroke patients. Preferably, this is done through a medical priority dispatch system during the 911 call. Identifying a potential stroke patient allows for the right EMS dispatch and hospital destination.

EMS providers should:

  • Assess the patient using a validated pre-hospital stroke scale (for example, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, BE FAST).
  • Obtain a blood glucose level.
  • Get a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG), if available.
  • Decide the best hospital destination based on ability to care for an acute stroke patient.
  • Report their assessment findings before arriving at that hospital.

The Importance of EMS Pre-Notification, P-03132 (PDF)—Pre-notification should occur so emergency staff can prepare for the arrival of the acute stroke patient. Effective communication gives the emergency department time to activate its stroke team. This allows rapid triage of the incoming stroke patient. Plain language communication using terms such as “Stroke Alert” or “Neuro Alert” can enhance the care the stroke patient receives at the hospital. Hospitals and EMS should collaborate on education and protocols for acute stroke patient care.

EMS providers are the front-line health care providers. They can recognize stroke and decrease the long-term disabilities caused by an acute stroke.

Resilience is important for first responders

Resilience is the ability to adapt and recover from adversity. Resilience matters within ourselves, our relationships, and in our communities. Find healthy ways to cope with Trauma and Toxic Stress, especially during tough times, take a step closer to becoming more resilient.

Resilient Wisconsin is here to help. The program offers the latest mental and behavioral health self-care tools and Trauma-Informed Practices.

Coverdell EMS partners

In an effort to reach the goals outlined above, the Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program invites EMS agencies to become Coverdell EMS Partners. EMS Partners are recognized on the Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program website. They receive a press release template for local publicity.

The benefits of being a Coverdell EMS Partner include:

  • Quarterly data reports on stroke measure performance.
  • Invitations for education and training.
  • Access to community education outreach materials.
  • Quarterly EMS meetings that offer networking, review of Coverdell and Wisconsin stroke metrics, and sharing of best practices.
  • Recognition on the state stroke program website.
  • Satisfaction in advancing your knowledge and skills to benefit your community and your patients.

Interested in partnering with the Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program? Fill out the Coverdell Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Partner Agreement, F-01647. (PDF)

Participating EMS providers

  • Aspirus Wausau Hospital MedEvac
  • Boscobel Rescue Squad, Inc.
  • Butler Volunteer Fire Department
  • Caledonia Fire Department
  • City of Beloit Fire Department
  • City of Fond du Lac Fire Rescue
  • City of Madison Fire Department
  • City of Oshkosh Fire Department
  • City of Pewaukee Fire Department
  • City of Waukesha Fire Department
  • Clinton Fire Protection District
  • De Pere Fire Rescue
  • Deer–Grove EMS District
  • Door County Emergency Medical Service
  • Fitch–Rona EMS District
  • Footville Fire Department EMS
  • Greenfield Fire Department
  • Kenosha Fire Department
  • Lauderdale La Grange Fire Department
  • Marquette County EMS – Montello Branch
  • Marshfield Fire & Rescue Department
  • Menomonee Falls Fire Department
  • Milwaukee Fire Department
  • Muscoda Rescue Squad
  • Oregon Area Fire EMS District
  • Potosi Rescue Squad
  • Poynette Dekorra Emergency Medical Service
  • Racine Fire Department
  • Reedsburg Area Ambulance Service
  • Riverside Fire District
  • South Area Fire and Emergency Response District
  • Southwest Health EMS
  • Sparta Area Ambulance
  • Sun Prairie Emergency Medical Service
  • Taylor County EMS
  • Tomah Area Ambulance Service
  • Town of Beloit Fire Department
  • Town of Brookfield Fire Department
  • Wausau Fire Department
  • Waushara County EMS – Wautoma Division
  • West Allis Fire Department
  • Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department


Contact us

Kyleen Maccoux
Coverdell Quality Improvement Specialist

Last revised September 12, 2023