Meet Shawna Butler: Host of the SEE YOU NOW Podcast, Nurse Advocate, and More
You may know Shawna Butler as the voice and host of SEE YOU NOW, a storytelling podcast highlighting the innovative solutions driven by nurses to solve our most challenging healthcare problems and transform our healthcare practices. What you might not know is that this role is just one of many where Shawna has been a pioneering role model and champion for advancing nurses as innovators, subject matter experts, and leaders. She has centered her career on raising the visibility of nurses, empowering them as system-level change agents, and revealing how nurses create and drive clinical and economic value.
“If you have a mission or a mandate to improve health or human experience, You. Need. Nurses,” said Shawna. “You need them on your teams, leading your teams, and in the highest levels of executive decision making where they are setting, executing, and accountable for strategy and operations. My work on the SEE YOU NOW podcast has deepened that belief and intensified my call to action. Each story and episode strengthen my case and expands our audience’s awareness and appreciation for how incredibly knowledgeable, capable, and interested nurses are in naming and solving the massively complex and detail-rich challenges we encounter every single day in helping people get the care and health they need.”
Shawna comes to the SEE YOU NOW host role with an ability to engage knowledgeably across domains and comfortably with a wide range of guests as an extension of her years of clinical nursing and an unusual combination of career experiences that include strategy, innovation, and event production. Her career began in Washington D.C at a university teaching hospital as a clinical nurse at a time when healthcare was experiencing significant political, social, and economic shifts. She started in medical/surgical care, then moved to critical care units, where, as an ICU nurse she was part of a bioethics committee considering issues and policies for futile care, organ donation, healthcare rationing, surrogacy, cloning, privacy, technology innovation, and a range of new ethical considerations arising from medical advancements and the public health crisis of that time—the HIV epidemic.
With an advanced set of critical care skills and thirst for adventure, she also worked with a global medical evacuation operation providing international medical transports and repatriations. The role granted her frontline access to patients, hospital rooms, care teams, and health systems around the world. These intense clinical experiences and hands-on comparison of care delivery domestically and internationally revealed the complexity, constraints, creativity, and variation in how healthcare is resourced, organized, delivered, how much it costs, and how well—or not—it performs.
“My early career experiences and exposure fueled my interest to better understand the economics and business models of health, disability, care delivery, and the role technology innovation was beginning to play. So, I started looking at adjacent disciplines and degrees to broaden my understanding of care, costs, and systems,” Shawna said.
After further encouragement from a highly respected economist, Shawna was persuaded to pursue an MBA, a highly atypical career move for a Registered Nurse at that time. A move she’s glad she made.
“I’ve never changed careers; I’ve just added them,” she explained. “There are very few projects or roles where my combined nursing expertise, experience, and insights and business skills and acumen weren’t valuable in project design and execution.”
Shawna’s interest in the health systems that perform better on health outcomes and allocate greater resources on prevention and human services eventually drew her across the world to New Zealand, where she worked on a variety of projects. As digital technologies began to develop and play a more prominent role in health, Shawna, as she characterizes it, had the good fortune to be part of a multi-sector project that brought together clinicians and hospital staff with a software development team, a national telecom provider, and hardware manufacturer to successfully launch a district-wide digital radiology solution.
While there was a strong business case around efficiency and cost savings for implementing this new imaging technology, approach, and system, the actual impact for patients, clinicians, and the health systems far surpassed expectations. It fundamentally changed how they practiced and revealed many unimagined gains and possibilities. Remote collaboration took on entirely new dimensions.
“A light bulb went off for me. Technology was a democratizing force and the game-changer healthcare desperately needed. Even if we optimized every system, eliminated every bit of waste—which we wouldn’t—there still remained, so much care left undone. Problems that lived in the ‘too-hard, too-costly’ basket were now technology problems waiting to be solved.”
From that moment on, Shawna pursued opportunities with technology-driven health solutions. Favoring the earliest stages of problem discovery and concept design, she worked with startups where her clinical/business combination made her an ideal candidate to work on product development while being cognizant of the commercialization realities.
“While deepening my involvement in the growing health tech sector and health innovation community, I became acutely aware that I was frequently the only nurse in the room,” she stated. “So, I started asking, why aren’t nurses included?”
Shawna acknowledges that while nurses are valued for their critical role in care delivery and the successful operation of hospitals and health systems, “nurses are often overlooked and underestimated in their problem-solving, invention, innovation, business, and leadership skills.”
Several years ago, Shawna initiated a global conversation highlighting the rarity of nurses in boardrooms, product design, innovation teams, policy development, tech conferences, and health media. She’s on a mission to change that.
And so, Shawna was a perfect fit for hosting the SEE YOU NOW podcast dedicated to nurse-led innovation.
Enter SEE YOU NOW
In January of 2020, the SEE YOU NOW Podcast was born out of a shared, creative vision between Johnson & Johnson and the American Nurses Association, in collaboration with Shawna. The SEE YOU NOW podcast captures and animates the vibrancy of nurse-led health innovation. With a library of 55 episodes and growing, each episode is a thoughtfully told story of how nurses are discovering and tackling our most challenging healthcare problems.
“Nurses have a completely unfair advantage in healthcare innovation because they are closest to the suffering. When you are close to the suffering it brings urgency and conviction to problem-solving—and that drives innovation,” said Shawna. “I think SEE YOU NOW brings the magic and power of storytelling to the ideation process and leans in on the human element that nurses have unparalleled access to.”
Shawna noted that as the host speaking with nurse innovators, in particular hearing about the moment of awareness that kicks off a problem-solving journey, it is sobering and reminds her that there are people and families who belong to the stories behind the complex, alarming statistics.
“The public misses out on an enormous pool of talent, expertise, and insight when nurses are on the sidelines of innovation. SEE YOU NOW provides a platform for trailblazing nurses, amplifying their broad skillsets as problem-solvers, innovators, and entrepreneurs.”
Why a podcast focused on nurses?
The podcast medium and storytelling format humanizes and explains the mysteries of health innovation and with SEE YOU NOW, the specific role and contributions nurses’ play. Through nurses sharing their stories, connections are made in the telling, in the layering of voices, emotions, and surroundings. Podcasts also offer the ability to adapt the show’s content to the dynamic and changing environment and circumstances. Just three months into SEE YOU NOW, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world, and the SEE YOU NOW team pivoted to produce a themed series of episodes focused on the nurses and frontline health workers who stepped up to meet the challenge. For some, it was the first time hearing directly from nurses on the frontlines of care.
“It is vital that nurses are in, contributing to, and leading the conversations shaping our health, cultural, and national agendas. SEE YOU NOW hosts a breadth of health-relevant conversations that offer a critical and valuable nursing perspective that has historically been unsolicited and unheard. Increasingly, nurses are the first to identify and raise issues that need to be on the national agenda,” Shawna explained.
Another example was the special episode of SEE YOU NOW focused on Juneteenth, which in June of 2021 after almost 40 years of effort, became a federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of African American slaves. Recognizing the significance, the SEE YOU NOW team honored this historic moment with an episode and playlist spotlighting the scholarship, innovation, leadership, and manifold contributions of Black nurses in building healthier communities, families and experiences.
What’s next for the SEE YOU NOW podcast?
“We are in a moment of transformation, evolving to meet the changing needs of the crisis and preparing for the future ones,” Shawna said. “One thing remains clear to me and that’s the fact that we all have a part in elevating nurse innovators—we can all join Team Innovation!”
As an entry point, Shawna hopes the stories featured on SEE YOU NOW are an enjoyable listen. “In each of these stories, there’s a sincere human interaction with two people finding something unexpected in each other. A feeling of being heard. What’s not to love about that?” she asks.
With such wide-ranging and compelling stories, the show has a far-reaching appeal. Hopefully, a broad range of audiences finds them aspirational, informational and advocacy tools that promote nurses as highly valued and sought-after innovators across all our health endeavors. And that listeners feel part of a connected, committed, community. At the core of the show, Shawna aims to encourage all nurses to think broadly and boldly so they can see the cornucopia of possibilities and potential pathways for their careers.
“I hope that we are elevating the rock star quality of the nurses that are out there. They are solving really hard problems for the right reasons, and their stories don’t often get told,” said Shawna. “I truly believe when nurses are in roles of greater influence and decision-making, we will have better health.”
Subscribe to SEE YOU NOW here, or wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts and stay tuned for new episodes premiering during season six in October 2021!
The SEE YOU NOW podcast’s production team is always seeking note-worthy stories related to nurse-driven innovation in healthcare. If you know of other nurse innovators who should be on our radar, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.