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Nursing News HighlightsNurses Leading Innovation

Nurses Hacking Healthcare

Group of people smiling and looking at female nurse in scrubs as she talks in an conference room setting
When you hear the word “hackathon,” you may not necessarily envision a room full of nurses brainstorming ideas. However, at the “Nurse Hackathon: Nurses Hacking HealthCare” event, nurses are leading the problem solving and developing solutions to issues in healthcare.

Traditionally, hackathons were created as a way for computer programmers to gather and collaborate to solve a problem. Participants at a hackathon try to “hack,” or “solve” a challenge. At the “Nurse Hackathon: Nurses Hacking HealthCare” event hosted by Northeastern University, nurses are the ones leading the problem solving, developing solutions to issues in healthcare.

“Nurses are natural innovators, because we are trained to solve problems,” said Rebecca Love, RN, MSN, ANP, director of nurse innovation & entrepreneurship at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass. “Most nurses don’t think about taking their critical thinking skills a step further and actually developing a product or service that can be implemented on a larger scale. Through the Hackathon, we hope to revolutionize nursing education to change the current perceptions around nursing and present nurses as agents of change.”

Love is a nurse entrepreneur and organizer of the Nurse Hackathon. The event is designed to promote collaboration within the healthcare sector and inspire the nursing community to take on a leadership role in evolving new innovations in healthcare. This year, the Nurse Hackathon is scheduled for March 24-26, 2017 and will focus on the evolving field of “telehealth” and healthcare within the “home” for older adults. For more information or to register for the event, visit

During the Nurse Hackathon, hundreds of attendees of different disciplines including nurses, web designers, technologists, computer scientists, engineers, designers and others will share their ideas and collaborate during this three-day event. Each teams pitches their inventions/ideas to a panel of judges made up of venture capitalists and chief level healthcare executives who determine the winner. 

Last year, the event hosted more than 200 attendees, and 50-60 nurse entrepreneurs and mentors. Nine multi-disciplinary teams presented their healthcare innovations and competed for cash prizes, mentorship opportunities, business seminars, and other opportunities to build their business ventures. The first-place winner of last year’s hackathon was TeleCode, a telehealth system that automatically links nurses and physicians at the bedside with experts in CPR and codes, who can assist them in delivering care.

Christine O'Brien, MSHI, RN, a nursing informatics specialist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Mass., attended the Nurse Hackathon last year. Her team won second place for its idea to create an app that allows school nurses to track and alert parents and public health officials about outbreaks of illness and contagious conditions in their school.

“I realized very quickly that nurses were playing a huge role at the hackathon,” said O’Brien. “The atmosphere was electric. You could look around the room and see that everyone was throwing out ideas and brainstorming. I remember driving home from the first night feeling so proud about my chosen profession and inspired to dream big.”

At the Nurse Hackathon, the range of problems identified and solutions developed was diverse. The third-place team concentrated on mental health, developing a way for students to anonymously seek help for suicidal thoughts or depression through a system called Sharanonymous. This app-based platform allows college students who are feeling depressed to connect anonymously with student counselors who provide emotional support through challenging times to diminish the rates of college suicide.

According to O’Brien, participating in the Nurse Hackathon inspired her to consider a career as a nurse entrepreneur.

“Attending the hackathon inspired me to consider a whole new world where I can create new entrepreneurial opportunities for myself,” she said.

To learn more about O’Brien’s team project and read her advice to nursing entrepreneurs, read the Nursing Notes Nurse Perspective article. You can also follow along during this year’s Nurse Hackathon by using the hashtag #RN_Innovator. 

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