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Nursing News HighlightsNurses Leading Innovation

How the J&J Nurse Innovation Fellows are Driving Meaningful Change in Healthcare

From improving mental health care to making it easier for nurses to develop their innovative ideas, the 12 Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellows have been busy building their networks, and applying their insights, experiences and learnings from the Fellowship to individual projects that spotlight the power and potential of nurse-led innovation.

Driving meaningful healthcare change isn’t easy. For many nurses, it can be hard to bring forward and develop their great ideas, not knowing where to go for resources and guidance. That’s why in October 2019, Johnson & Johnson launched the Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellowship. Built in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership and Nurse Approved, the program helps strengthen the leadership and innovation skills of nurses and creates ripple effects of innovative thinking to inspire more nurse-led innovation in healthcare.

Twelve nurse leaders from across the country were chosen to be a part of the first cohort of the Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellowship in October 2019. And after a year of unprecedented need for nurse leadership, we’re excited to share an update on what our Fellows have done.

Leaning into the skills and insights garnered from the program, which included a combination of in-person and virtual learning, along with mentorship and coaching, each Fellow has been concurrently working on individual innovation action learning projects. Collectively, their projects have the potential to improve patient experience, break down barriers in care, transform mental health care access and power up nurse-led innovation.

“It’s been amazing and inspiring to witness the personal and professional growth of our Fellows over the last 1.5 years. Despite unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, each one found ways to push themselves into sometimes uncomfortable and unfamiliar territory to lead and persevered in continuing to drive their innovation projects forward,” said Lynda Benton, Senior Director of Global Corporate Equity at Johnson & Johnson. “Many stepped up into new leadership roles, expanded healthcare-related businesses, or pursued additional educational opportunities. They networked, and as they were mentored and grew, I know they became mentors to many as well. They are truly remarkable as a cohort – supporting each other and undoubtedly the people they work with and care for. I can’t wait to see what comes next for them and where their transformative solutions land.”

The Johnson & Johnson Notes on Nursing team recently caught up with the Fellows to learn about their inspiring innovation projects, that range from transforming the traditional hospital gown to driving a culture of innovative thinking throughout a nursing school to launching a start-up to revolutionizing home care nursing in rural areas.

Improving the Patient Experience

As anyone who has been admitted to a health facility can attest, the traditional hospital gown is ripe for innovation. For generations, hospital gowns have left patients feeling exposed for the sake of access and functionality. Lydel Wright, MSN, BSN, RN, Founder and CEO of SafeWatch, LLC and Chairman for the EmPACT Foundation, is passionate about redesigning the hospital gown for form, fashion and functionality. As Lydel prepares to take “The Access Gown™”, which includes consideration to bold prints for personal expression, and useful appendages that support dignified access to frequently cared for areas, to market through partnerships with the renowned Charley Harper Art Studio and brand icon Kendra Scott, he’s committed to making sure his product is also a gown that gives back. A portion of every gown purchased will support access to health education in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.

“The hospital gown is one of the most touched and engaged with medical products to date, and yet it has seen minimal innovation over the years,” said Lydel. “Throughout my innovation journey I’ve learned the importance of not being afraid to ask questions, reaching outside your network and asking for help. I’m grateful that this Fellowship has provided strong knowledge and skills that have been able to support me in not only being an innovator, but also a leader.”

At a nurse hackathon in 2019, Jennifferre Mancillas, RN, BSN, also part of the first all nurse-led team to be accepted into the elite business accelerator incubator program Y Combinator, realized a common pain point across healthcare—an overwhelming majority of nurses struggle to provide care for patients in dark or dimly lit environments. This often results in nurses having to turn bright overhead lights to deliver care, disrupting patient sleep which is vital to recovery. These experiences inspired her to co-found Lumify Care, a nurse-led start-up aiming to improve the patient experience around the world with the uNight Light, a hands-free, wearable LED device, designed by nurses for nurses specifically in the clinical setting. To date, Lumify Care has sold the uNight Light to healthcare professionals in all 50 states and has plans to expand offerings with a second version of their light this fall.

“It means so much to me that I have the experience and knowledge to create solutions for problems that I and many other nurses experience at the bedside,” said Jennifferre. “Nurses are capable of being the innovators, inventors, leaders and entrepreneurs that healthcare needs, and I’m glad this Fellowship has helped me grow in these areas and champion that message.”

Breaking Down Barriers in Care

Timothy Thomas, MSN, RN, CCHP, Captain in the United States Public Health Service and regional nurse consultant for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is committed to improving the quality of care for his patient population by changing one word: inmate. In some corrections facilities, staff who are accustomed to referring to patients as inmates might not realize the extent to which the word carries negative connotations and impacts the care that they provide. Tim recently presented “The Power of Words”, a presentation on using humanizing language, at the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) Spring Symposium, and after his abstract submission, the NCCHC released a public statement on utilizing more humanizing language. Tim is now working on a white paper recommending terminology changes across all BOP documentation with a goal to present it to the leadership by July 30, 2021.

“As I develop a greater understanding of the inequities in healthcare, and how I can become a part of the change to address the inequities, I’m reminded that innovation in healthcare is not always about creating or improving a product—there are many innovations that can improve patient care that are related to the process of the care provided,” said Tim.

One of the biggest barriers to delivering equitable care stems from lack of diversity within the profession. Joanna Seltzer Uribe, RN, MSN, EdD Candidate, believes inclusion, equity and belonging within the nursing profession is the first step towards attaining health equity. Recently, Joanna partnered with other nurse leaders to establish the Nurses You Should Know project, an online micro-learning campaign that invites nurses and allies to engage with storytelling to help narrow the representation gap of nurses of color.

“To modernize and diversify the narrative around nursing, we need to expand our professional origin story,” said Joanna. “By making visible how nurses of color shaped—and continue to shape —our profession, we can better chart the influences of American history on our profession. This collective knowledge enables us to make nursing more diverse and inclusive in the future by being able to see and learn from the mistakes of our past.”

Although there are twice the number of home care agencies than hospitals in the United States, only 17% of home care agencies1 are located in rural areas, and due to longer drive times for health providers and acute staffing shortages this can lead to lower quality care for rural patients. Briana White, MSN, RN, CPN, CCRN-K, CNL, Manager of Clinical Quality and Care Management at Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire, has set out to modernize home care delivery through nurse-led innovation at the local level with a new care model—one of the first in the nation to integrate the role of clinical nurse leaders to guide care for patients in rural areas. Briana is leveraging Masters’ educated Clinical Nurse Leaders to lead patient care at the microsystem level. Traditional care teams focus on the individual patient, while the interdisciplinary team is caring for a group of patients and the community.

“Nurses have this incredible ability to translate, create, transform and adapt the science of nursing care to the needs of the community, and that community is absolutely not served only in the four walls of a hospital or clinic,” said Briana. “My experience with the Fellowship program amid this pandemic has pulled me to address the needs of my own rural community, and I feel like I have made a difference where I work and our patient population of focus.”

Transforming Mental Health Care Access

When Deidra Heuring, DNP RN AHN-BC PMH-C, staff nurse at the St. Cloud Hospital Post Anesthesia Care Unit in Minnesota, saw that many of her patients were experiencing perinatal mental health challenges but did not have access to specialized services, she knew she had to try to find a solution. Deidra decided to partner with Postpartum Support International, one of the country’s leading nonprofits addressing perinatal mental health, in seeking credentialling of their Perinatal Mental Health certification (PMH-C) for ANCC/Magnet approval. This credential provides recognition and financial reimbursement for professional nurses seeking certification in this field, which can help encourage more nurses to achieve this certification and improve the speed and quality of care that can help address perinatal mental health.

“I wanted to figure out what I could do for my community so that no parent suffers alone in isolation,” said Deidra. “I am committed to working with Postpartum Support International to see this project through because of the positive impact it can have for so many families.”

Seeing the traumatic effects of the COVID-19 health crisis, Dr. Princess Fumi Stephanie Hancock, DNP, APRN, PMHNP-BC, Principal Psychiatric Mental Health Doctor of Nurse Practice for Pool of Bethesda Psychiatric Health, resolved to reinforce her commitment to confronting the taboos of mental health and helping those who have experienced trauma. She created TRAUMA SHIELD™ Healing Narratives, an innovative rehabilitative storytelling approach for rebuilding lives after trauma that puts the patient at the center and designs a method tailored to their specific demographic and culture. Princess Fumi Stephanie created this approach to lend a voice and embolden young trauma victims who may feel silenced or afraid to speak about their experience. By connecting them with mental health professionals who provide care and can assist them in navigating recovery—the goal is to help these trauma victims begin to heal. In less than two years, Princess Stephanie has opened three mental health clinics in Arizona where they utilize TRAUMA SHIELD™ approach daily to help patients who have experienced traumatic events.

“The support I’ve received from being in this Fellowship program and seeing the trauma brewing in our communities drove me to put myself out there as a psychiatric mental health trauma care expert,” said Princess Fumi Stephanie Hancock, DNP. “Far too many face stigma and shame when they dare to share their life experiences.”

COVID-19 exacerbated the urgent need for mental health support for frontline health workers, and Charlene Platon, MS, RN, FNP-BC, Director of Ambulatory Nursing at Stanford Health Care, knew just how valuable a nurse-led and nurse-tested tool for nurse well-being could be. After her experience in the NurseHack4Health: COVID-19 Virtual Hackathon in May 2020, Charlene co-founded Fifth Window, a digital wellness platform that matches nurses with self-care activities, provides a supportive community and leverages existing wellness resources within healthcare organizations by combining them all into one platform. To date, the beta app has undergone multiple rounds of testing with over 115 nurses, and her team is aiming to launch it formally this summer.

“As a Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellow, I’ve committed myself to promoting the well-being of nurses. Fifth Window intends to serve as a catalyst and conduit for transforming healthcare culture, so prioritizing self-care is no longer stigmatized within the industry,” Charlene said.

Powering Up Nurse Innovation

As the Director of the Center for Innovations in Care Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Hiyam Nadel, RN, MBA, BSN, CGC, is working hard to elicit, support and provide resources that can help develop nurse-led ideas at her institution. To date, she has helped incubate eight ideas—all in various stages of development, prototypes and commercialization. The success of those eight ideas has led to the launch of a hospital, ambulatory and community-wide challenge. The challenge, entitled the Ether Dome Challenge, provides staff with a platform to voice their challenges and proposed solutions to address them for the opportunity to be one of 4 awardees who receive $10,000 and 1-to-1 mentoring with Hiyam to help develop their solution.

“Nurses have many ideas to improve health and healthcare, but often no pathway to share those ideas,” said Hiyam. “We have proven our success in developing impactful solutions and hope to develop a toolkit which others can learn from as we shift the paradigm to intrapreneurship in healthcare. It is not enough to just say ‘go ahead and innovate’. Staff must be given education, resources and mentorship around innovation methodology to think differently and come up with impactful solutions.”

Erik Andersen, MS, BSN, RN, critical care nurse at WakeMed Health and Hospitals, is passionate about the impact better healthcare design can have on health outcomes and believes in the power nurses can have in design. Many procedures and devices operate well from a technical standpoint, but they complicate the workflow versus complimenting and simplifying it. Leaning into his experience as a bedside nurse, Erik is developing a model for better healthcare design by applying his nursing lens to the process through his start-up medical device company Andersen Innovations, LLC. His crucial and clinical perspective helps healthcare innovators better understand how solutions can progress beyond the “idea stage” and how technologies can be developed to better adapt to health practitioners, rather than requiring staff to adapt to the technology. In addition, he focuses on optimizing device design around the clinical end user, specifically nurses who deliver 90% of the care the patients receive.

“Many of the things we use function from a technical standpoint, but they complicate the workflow, they don't compliment it,” said Erik. “My background in biomedical engineering allows me to be part of a team to design products that make providing healthcare better by applying the lens of the bedside clinician to the design process. The Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellowship has equipped me with not only the motivation to find opportunities to make those improvements, but also the support and approach to take them farther than I feel I could have otherwise.”

Dr. Michelle Munro-Kramer, PhD, CNM, FNP-BC, Assistant Professor, the Suzanne Bellinger Feetham Professor of Nursing, and Director of Global Programs at the University of Michigan School of Nursing is helping future generations of nurses think of themselves as innovators early in their careers starting in nursing school. In 2019, the University of Michigan School of Nursing began offering a faculty innovation program called the Healthcare Innovation Impact Program (HiiP). Since then, Michelle has been working to recruit volunteer undergraduate and graduate nursing Student Innovation Ambassadors to expand and develop the program, using data from students to inform programming and create a model for other schools to follow as they seek to offer their own nurse innovation programs. UMich Nursing is launching a nursing student-led hackathon, Innovate 4 Change, that will kick-off with the formation of interdisciplinary teams on September 15th followed by five weeks of “hacking”, mentorship, and education on innovation and entrepreneurship before teams pitch their innovations on October 23rd, and Michelle is leading the charge.

“Innovation programs for faculty are starting to pop up at schools of nursing across the country; however, there has been very little focus on nursing students as a driving innovation force. The future of healthcare requires creativity, interdisciplinary collaboration and energy from our emerging healthcare leaders,” Michelle said. “I think that Johnson & Johnson investing in nurses should be a sign to nurses that slowly, but surely we can continue to gain the recognition and momentum needed to be change makers.”

Perhaps one of the best ways to elevate nurse innovation is to celebrate and document the nurse-led products, protocols, devices and more that have largely remained unrecognized. Olivia Lemberger, MSN, RN, CHSE, Clinical Educator at the Rush Copley Medical Center in Illinois, understands the value of a database that can track, measure, and disseminate the extraordinary work of nurse innovators and is actively developing one of her own. The one-of-a-kind database has the potential to demonstrate the impact of nurse innovators on patients, healthcare systems, outcomes, safety, efficiency, and cost-savings, as well as serve as a networking platform for nurse innovators to share and compare innovation practices.

“Every day I am honored to have the opportunity to contribute what I have discovered about nursing innovation and continue the innovation journey with fellow nurses who are dedicated to creating a world where innovation is considered a fundamental facet of the nursing profession,” said Olivia. “I have enjoyed being surrounded by nurses who dare me to dream bigger.”

As part of our commitment to the nursing profession, the Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellowship offers nurses the opportunity to develop and accelerate their innate innovative spirit, build their leadership and innovation skills sets and create lifelong connections with likeminded individuals. The Fellows will convene again in-person this September, at their second-ever in-person training session in Colorado Springs, CO for a full week of coaching and developmental activities. As this cohort wraps up their fellowships in January 2022, they will present their individual final innovation projects at Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters in New Brunswick, NJ. Of course, we hope that the journey doesn’t end there, as our Fellows will transition into Alumni and continue to share their insights as mentors and advisors for our next cohort, planned to launch in 2022.

Want to learn more about our inspiring Fellows? We have plans to launch a second cohort in 2022. Visit the Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellowship page here for more information about our current Fellows and the program.

1 Home health care services. (2019, March). Retrieved from http://www.medpac.gov/docs/default-source/reports/mar19_medpac_ch9_sec_rev.pdf

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