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Nursing News HighlightsNurses Leading Innovation

Celebrating NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon Finalist Teams

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Ten innovative, nurse-led multidisciplinary health system teams were selected as finalists in the first-ever NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon, an opportunity to accelerate change in addressing foundational wellbeing and workplace challenges so nurses and other healthcare workers can thrive. Learn more about seven of the finalist teams below!

Editor's Note
Watch the NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon Event and the finalist pitches here.

Nurse-led health system teams took center stage as innovative leaders, interdisciplinary collaborators and creative problem solvers in the first-ever NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon.

Nearly 40 teams submitted solutions that directly address well-being and workplace challenges across four evidence-based workforce wellbeing focus areas, including flexibility, efficiency, staffing and well-being support. From text-based peer support to psychological first-aid spaces, ten finalist teams presented exciting solutions and innovative approaches to workplace wellbeing.

Presented by Johnson & Johnson, SONSIEL – Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs, & Leaders, Microsoft, and grant funding provided by #FirstRespondersFirst and ALL IN: Wellbeing First for Healthcare, the NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon provided an opportunity for health systems to accelerate innovation and reimagine workplace environment, and three innovative teams were awarded $260,000 in grant funding from #FirstRespondersFirst to bring their ideas to life.

“It’s time to reimagine healthcare work environments in a way that attracts nurses, and where nurses can truly thrive when they come to work each day,” said Lynda Benton, Senior Director, Global Community Impact Strategic Initiatives Johnson & Johnson Nursing. “I love the different concepts raised by each of the Pitch-A-Thon finalists, all of the ideas have the potential to build a better, healthier, more sustainable healthcare system.”

Meet the finalist teams and learn more about their innovative solutions below.

Focus Area: Give clinicians more autonomy and flexibility


A Dual Role Model to Stabilize the Workforce
Trading Spaces: Hope for Nurses
City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, California 

 Nurses who may feel stuck or stagnant in their current role would have new career path opportunities through the ‘Trading Spaces’ concept, led by Christine Tarver, executive director of professional practice & nursing excellence at City of Hope National Medical Center.  

image of 2022 NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon finalist
Christine Tarver

With the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 500,000 nurses are predicted to leave the profession in 2022, creating a cumulative estimated shortage of 1.1 million nurses, it’s clear health systems will need to radically rethink their approach to staffing.  

 Through a dual role model, two registered nurses or two nurse practitioners would enter a one-year role share commitment, providing the opportunity to try a new role without having to make a permanent job change or worse, leave the profession.   

Inspired by a session held at the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Conference, the concept provides an opportunity for nurses to expand their skill sets and explore new areas of the profession, while staying at their current organization and retaining full-time status and benefits. Job satisfaction and burnout symptoms would be tracked at 3-month, 6-month and 9-month intervals.  

  “Having a job-shared dual role is mutually beneficial to both departments, as new ideas can be brought forward with fresh eyes and different perspectives,” Tarver says. “It is also important to have a culture of ownership that this is nursing’s program, not a solution brought in by others outside of the profession.” 

The City of Hope Medical Center Pitch-A-Thon team
The City of Hope Medical Center Pitch-A-Thon team

With the requested grant funding, City of Hope National Medical Center would create an online hub and hire a part-time coordinator to manage and mentor the dyads, conduct data analysis and program marketing, and launch a 2-day orientation for participants.  

Team: Christine Tarver, Executive Director of Professional Practice & Nursing Excellence; Amy Altomare, Program Director, Strategy Implementation & Optimization; Jeannine Brant, Executive Director, Clinical Science and Innovation; Erin Kopp, APP Director; Sara Lariviere, Project Manager; Eddie Moreira, Human Resources Business Partner; Executive Sponsor: Sara Caiazza, VP, ACNO

Focus Area: Get radical to shore up staffing


Better Staffing Models for Oncology Care
Infusion Acuity Tool – Ambulatory Oncology
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

For ambulatory oncology nurses, there are many variables that determine how much nursing time is required to care for a particular patient.

Existing tools to monitor staffing and how much support is needed to care for a patient only capture the amount of time a patient spends receiving treatment, not the amount of time a nurse needs to spend providing the care. From IV issues to add-on treatments, a lack of support staff can result in oncology nurses consistently working overtime, exacerbating burnout and job-related stress.

Led by Kristen Nichols and Julie Cronin, a team at Massachusetts General Hospital saw an opportunity to positively impact ambulatory infusion units throughout the country by building a customizable staffing tool.

Kristen Nichols and Julie Cronin
Kristen Nichols and Julie Cronin

The Infusion Acuity tool captures the amount of nursing time required to deliver safe, effective, quality care to each patient, accounting for each individual component of care. It will provide data to determine appropriate nurse staffing models and better balance patient volume and acuity per nurse.

image of 2022 NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon finalist

After winning the MGH Nursing and Patient Care Services Ether Dome Challenge in 2021, the team began incubating the patient acuity tool by creating a prototype, documenting the entire infusion process from the perspectives of different stakeholders, and conducting time studies.

With the goals of decreasing burnout, increasing staff retention, improving patient safety and satisfaction and improve efficiency in scheduling and decreased wait times, the team is seeking funding to support development, testing, implementation and patents and licensing costs.

Team: Kristen Nichols, BSN, RN, OCN; Julie Cronin, RN, DNP, OCN, NE-BC; Barbara Cashavelly, RN, DNP, NE-BC; Phil Saylor, MD; J. Cameron Crowe, PharmD, MSHA

Combatting Burnout through Virtual Nursing
Virtual Nursing: Innovative Care Delivery Model
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas

Donna Elrod, Associate Chief Clinical Informatics Officer for Nursing, leads an interdisciplinary team from the University of Arkansas for Medical Science (UAMS) that combines Information Technology (IT) and nursing in a virtual nursing program to address nurse fatigue, frustration and burnout.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Pitch-A-Thon team
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Pitch-A-Thon team

“Healthcare has been plagued with nurse staffing crises and workforce shortages for decades and the global pandemic has created a dire situation,” she says. “We see firsthand the burnout our nurses are feeling, and in some cases, we feel the burnout as well.”

While the pandemic exacerbated the nursing shortage, it did improve adoption of telemedicine. However, Elrod notes that these expansions have largely excluded clinical bedside nurses.

image of Donna Elrod, 2022 NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon finalist
Donna Elrod

UAMS would complement the care provided by bedside nurses with virtual nursing support, specifically for patients with complex diagnoses and treatments.

Through a high-definition video monitoring system with a 2-way speaker, the virtual nurse would oversee vitals analytics, call light support, skin assessments, high risk medication administration verification, patient education, admission and discharge documentation, and delirium management.

“Research has shown similar solutions improve patient satisfaction, scores, reduce nurse burnout, and reduce patient length of stay,” Elrod says.

The team seeks to achieve an improvement in RN job satisfaction by 50% and reduce patient falls with injury by 25% within one-year post-implementation.

The team is seeking funding to pilot the program with 4 video devices serving approximately 200-400 patients, and expects to scale to 9 inpatient units, 6 devices, and 5,000 to 8,000 units in subsequent years.

Eventually, UAMS hopes to become the “Center for Arkansas Virtual Nursing,” and leverage the Institute of Digital Health and Innovation to address scarce healthcare resources in rural Arkansas.

Team: Donna Elrod, PhD, RN, Associate Chief Clinical Informatics Officer for Nursing; Ed Horton, Associate Chief Nursing Officer; Joshua Curtis, RN, Telemetry Unit Team Lead; Rebekah Thacker, Director of Research, Excellence and Magnet Programs

Focus Area: Support nurse well-being


Gamifying to Rediscover a Sense of Self
Moving From Wellbeing to Wellbecoming
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts

“Seeing our colleagues at the advent of the pandemic hurting in a way we had never seen before, our group came together organically to form the MGH Wellbeing Collaborative,” says Karen Miguel, RN, nurse lead of the Massachusetts General Hospital Pitch-A-Thon team.

image of Karen Miguel, 2022 NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon finalist
Karen Miguel

While Massachusetts General Hospital is fortunate to have many well-being resources, she says, they weren’t always matched to nurses’ needs. As a result, nurses at MGH – like those at many health systems – were experiencing job-related stress and burnout.

Through a gamified, team-based approach, the “Wellbecoming” project is intended to rebuild relationships and better connect unit staff to resources. Unit teams can earn points by adding positive behaviors that improve well-being, such as meditation, healthy eating, exercising, daily huddles, donating blood, as well as by disengaging in negative habits that detract from well-being.

“The moment I made the difficult decision to step away from the bedside and into a quality and patient safety role, I committed to always investing in the well-being of our colleagues by listening to their voice and striving to help remove the obstacles that prevent them from doing their jobs to their highest potential,” Miguel says.

This process will be facilitated by trained well-being coaches and managers, who provide a concierge level of support. The team predicts 800 staff can be reached and they hope to expand the program to include clinical and non-clinical units. Mass General is seeking grant funding to create this pilot environment, develop a gamification app, provide education to trainers and managers, and develop other support functions.

Team: Karen Miguel, RN, MM-H, CPPS; Darsha Mehta, MD, MPH; Kerri Palamara McGrath, MD; John Herman, MD; Allison Lilly, LICSW, CEAP; John Herman, MD; Ellen Robinson, RN, PhD; Colleen Snydeman, RN, PhD, NE-BC; Alice Cabotaje, MDiv, Bcc, ACPE; Tricia Crispi, RN, PhD, MPD-BC; Jill Pedro, RN, DNP, ACNS-BVC ONC; Allison Parmer, JD, Mbe; Executive Sponsor – Sue Algeri, RN, MSN

Recuperation Spaces for Nurses
RISE: Rejuvenation, Introspection, Self-Care, Empowerment
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland

Nursing is an engaging, fast-paced, and fulfilling career, but it can be stressful and exhausting. Recuperation is essential, ensuring nurses have space to debrief and decompress during and after stressful shifts. The RISE proposal, led by Dr. Cheryl Connors at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, is intended to provide nurses time and space to recover, separate from their work.

“Staff have little to no physical space to retreat to from experiencing ongoing stressful work-related events,” says Connors. “No place to process. No place to cry. No place to recharge before continuing their shift.”

image of Cheryl Connors, 2022 NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon finalist
Cheryl Connors

The center, to be built at the hospital, would be designed as an accessible, central, private space where nursing staff can engage in several multi-sensory cognition-supportive activities, such as vibrational tune beds and visual art activities, among others. This defined recovery space would complement other nurse well-being resources at Johns Hopkins, like the Cooley Center fitness facility and the virtual Healthy at Hopkins well-being program.

image of The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Pitch-A-Thon team, 2022 NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon finalist
The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Pitch-A-Thon team

With grant funding, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine would hire a full-time center concierge, build and supply the multi-purpose room, and ensure IT support.

Team: Dr. Cheryl Connors, DNP; RN, NEA-BC; Jane Miller; Stacy Shilling, MS, RN; Susan Magsamen; Karen Alexander; Dr. Alan Kachalia, MD, JD; Charlie Reuland, PhD; Dr. Albert Wu, MD, MPH.

Around-the-Clock Care for Caregivers
R3 24/7 Access: Revitalize, Recharge, and Re-Energize Our Healthcare Team Members 24/7
Morristown Medical Center, Morristown, NJ

Nurses’ psychological safety and well-being is the foundation of the R3 24/7 Access concept, a direct response to the immediate need for nurse recovery and resilience, led by assistant nurse manager Julia Millspaugh and research nurse Lise Cooper.

Julia Millspaugh and Lise Cooper
Julia Millspaugh and Lise Cooper

The team proposes an intervention system available to nurses 24/7, to reduce workplace stress in real-time. This accessible all-encompassing solution would provide immediate benefit to the nurses at Morristown Medical Center.

“Stress is not unique to nurses and is experienced by colleagues throughout the healthcare system. But at the height of the pandemic, experienced nurses confided that they had never seen so much death,” the team says. “We aim to provide a variety of activities to reduce stress for all team members that support a healthy work environment.”

The team plans to bring a variety of well-being activities directly to the units where nurses work. Virtual and live activities will be easily accessible, brief, free, and varied, including animal-assisted therapy, mural coloring, meditation sessions, massages, and more.

The activities self-selected by the participants are intended to provide them with relaxation and a short diversion to recharge, so they are ready to handle complex problems more easily. Clinical nurses won’t have to leave their posts, making accessibility and availability integral to the program’s success. The hospital’s history of success in holistically supportive patient care will be leveraged to drive the program’s successful operation for nurses.

Grant funding for the first year would be dedicated to hiring expert consultants, acquiring volunteers, and creating and editing the R3 content to be used in the second and third year of the program.

Team: Julia Millspaugh, Assistant Nurse Manager, Integrative Medicine; Lise Cooper, Research Nurse; Brandee Fetherman, Chief Nursing Officer; Mildred Ortu Kowalski, Manager, Center for Nursing Innovation and Research; Michelle Martins, Manager, Informatics; Audrey F. VonPoelnitz, MD; Tim Luby, Media Services; Thomas Healey, Environmental Services; Emma Atanasio, Food & Nutrition Services; Karen Zatorski, Communications

Text-Based Peer Support for Nurses
N2N Real Time Digital Nurse to Nurse Peer Support Intervention Pilot
University of California San Diego Health, San Diego, California 

OR nurse Kristina Banashek is no stranger to the stress of nursing.

“To truly care for my patients, I need people at work to listen and understand, and I need the support of my peers to get me through those stressors,” she says.

image of Kristina Banashek, 2022 NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon finalist
Kristina Banashek

Leading a team at UC San Diego Health, Banashek and her partners are piloting a text-based stress assessment model that combines in-the-moment, single-item questions with targeted, real-time peer-based interventions.

Texts are sent once a week on a randomized schedule asking nurses to rank on a scale of 0-10 how stressed they feel in that moment. Answers correlate to workplace exhaustion, sense of control/reward, depression, workplace injury, and turnover.

Because the simple, single-focus questions are asked in the moment, it minimizes recall bias, in which nurses may not fully recollect their experiences if asked later.

Any nurse whose response is higher than a 6 is prompted to speak to a trained peer supporter. Nurses can also follow their stress responses on a personalized, anonymous website. Through the pilot, nurses will be able to track stress patterns over time and compare their results to peers, reducing a sense of isolation. Users can also submit their top stressors on a weekly or monthly basis giving nurses a voice in how to change their workplace environment. The platform will leverage machine learning to present the top 5 stressors identified across the institution.

UC San Diego Health Pitch-A-Thon team screenshot

“Our team believes, and the literature supports, that stressors are context dependent. To effectively help our nurses, we must understand the stressors they face down to the smallest detail,” Banashek says. “In the end, the person who best understands a nurse’s stress is a nurse. Similarly, the best person to talk a nurse through a tough time is another nurse who understand what they are going through.”

Through the pilot, the UC San Diego team will assess the program’s recruitment and compliance results, as well as the useability, utility and burden of both the text assessment tool and the peer support system.

“There are no digital assessment systems that are focused on nurses, combine text and interactive web pages to provide continuous, in-the-moment stress assessments, and mental health interventions,” Banashek says.

The team is seeking grant funding to support a pilot, the bulk of which would be to co-create the digital engagement platform and to deploy the training materials to peer supporters, as well as pay for CME accreditation, facility fees, and salary support.

If the pilot is successful, Banashek and her team plan to seek further funding to both maintain the program at UCSD and expand it across the UC Health system.

Team: Kristina Banashek, BSN, RN, PHN, CNOR; Byron Fergerson, MD, Professor of Anesthesiology; Margarita Baggett, RN, MSN, UCSD Chief Clinical Officer


To learn more about the NurseHack4Health Pitch-A-Thon, click here. To learn more about the Johnson & Johnson commitment to supporting a workplace culture where nurses thrive, click here.

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