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Caregivers & Trailblazers: Four Nurse Innovators Redefining Healthcare

group of smiling nurses on promo graphic for National Nurses Month
Johnson & Johnson has proudly championed the nursing profession for over 125 years because we know that for healthcare to work, it takes nurses. This National Nurses Month, we celebrate the innovation, expertise and tremendous impact of more than 4 million nurses across the U.S. Below, meet four inspiring nurses dedicated to transforming the health of their patients and communities, underscoring the innovation and leadership of the nursing profession.
Nursing News & ProgramsNurses Leading Innovation

Caregivers & Trailblazers: Four Nurse Innovators Redefining Healthcare

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Johnson & Johnson has proudly championed the nursing profession for over 125 years because we know that for healthcare to work, it takes nurses. This National Nurses Month, we celebrate the innovation, expertise and tremendous impact of more than 4 million nurses across the U.S. Below, meet four inspiring nurses dedicated to transforming the health of their patients and communities, underscoring the innovation and leadership of the nursing profession.
group of smiling nurses on promo graphic for National Nurses Month

Nurses are inventors and mentors, scientists and lifesavers, trailblazers and groundbreakers. They embody the humanity of healthcare as they provide hands on patient care and create the future as they pioneer new technology and care models. And they see beyond the limitations of today, breaking down barriers for patients and populations to build a healthier world.

Johnson & Johnson has proudly championed the nursing profession for over 125 years because we know the irreplaceable role they have played in so many scientific breakthroughs, difficult surgeries and challenging recoveries, and major medical moments of the last century and beyond. They do it by thinking holistically, connecting directly with people to understand their challenges, and developing strategic, human-centered solutions.

This National Nurses Month, join us in celebrating nurses and their tremendous impact. We invite you to meet, celebrate and share the stories of inspiring nurses dedicated to transforming the health of their communities, underscoring the innovation and leadership of the nursing profession.

  • Nurses & Community-Inspired Research

    Four nurse innovators redefining healthcare: Timiya Nolan

    The nurse scientist designing culturally sensitive interventions to advance health equity.

    Timiya S. Nolan, PhD, APRN-CNP, ANP-BC was hooked on nursing from the moment she stepped into her first clinical rotation. “I will never forget that moment,” says Nolan, a three-time graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing, where she earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees. “I immediately saw it was the nurse, not the doctor, at the bedside doing the work and watching out for the patient. From that point on, I was all in.”

    Timiya Nolan
    Source: Timiya Nolan

    After joining Ohio State University as an Assistant Professor in 2018, Nolan is now back at her alma mater as an Associate Professor in the Heersink School of Medicine at UAB.

    There, she studies ways to reduce health disparities in breast cancer and cardiovascular disease among medically underserved communities in Alabama by better understanding underrepresented minorities with chronic conditions and developing culturally sensitive interventions.

    Nolan sees herself as a convener – “My style is to bring people together,” she said. “The best teams are ones that don't just encompass academics, but also include community members and government officials and industry partners, all working together toward a common and shared goal, which for me is to find ways that we can reduce health disparities and really move toward health equity.”

    Timiya Nolan spearheads the Uplift Her wellness event in Columbus, Ohio
    Timiya S. Nolan, PhD, APRN-CNP, ANP-BC, is a nurse scientist at The Ohio State University focused on working in and with her community to reduce healthcare disparities. In honor of Minority Health Month, learn how she’s helping Black patients improve quality of life after breast cancer, boosting heart health in Black men, and bringing more nurses of color into community-based research.

  • Nurses & Patient Innovation

    Four nurse innovators redefining healthcare: Abby Hess

    The nurse intrapreneur reducing anesthesia anxiety for pediatric surgical patients.

    In the pediatric post-anesthesia care unit at Cincinnati Children’s, Abby Hess, APRN, DNP, learned quickly that children who are highly anxious as they’re given anesthesia are more likely to have negative outcomes after surgery.

    Inspired by a mother who encouraged her child to “huff and puff” like the “big bad wolf” before being fitted with an anesthesia mask, Hess had an idea. Could she create a breathing-controlled video game, where kids practice using an anesthesia mask and “puff” to blow bubbles or inflate balloons in the game?

    Headshot of Johnson & Johnson QuickFire Challenge awardee
    Source: Abby Hess

    She created a prototype and, encouraged by her research mentor, began to seek grant funding to develop a functional version. Hess admits, it was challenging at first: “Intellectual property, FDA classification, commercialization partners — they don’t teach any of that in nursing school! But collaborating with different disciplines and learning new skills and technologies is something that we do constantly as nurses.”

    It took several years from receiving the grant to creating a licensed product, Hess says, as COVID and other factors created roadblocks. But she persevered, and in 2023, Cincinnati Children’s officially secured a licensing agreement with LittleSeed Calming Technologies LLC of Columbus, Ohio to distribute the patented product nationwide.

    As an “intrapreneur,” Hess has developed her innovative idea while continuing to work clinically at Cincinnati Children’s. She received $200,000 in internal innovation grant funding, as well as $50,000 through the 2019 Johnson & Johnson QuickFire Challenge and additional funding through the state of Ohio’s Technology Validation and Start-up Fund. Today, she works in both a clinical role and an innovation role within the health system. She is also collaboratively developing a program to support front-line clinical innovation.

    “There are so many different things that you can do in nursing, and you can work to shape your career to be what you're most passionate about and what you love,” Hess said. “When I was in nursing school, I never considered or even heard of being a nurse innovator, but now it’s become my passion, and what I’m super excited to do every day.”

    Nurse Abby Hess with two young patients
    From a clever way to help prep kids for surgery to a baby bottle nipple shaped just like Mom’s, these nurses’ bright ideas helped them win Johnson & Johnson’s first nursing innovation challenge—and a total of $100,000 in grant money.

  • Nurses & Climate Change Protections

    Four nurse innovators redefining healthcare: Roxana Chicas

    The nurse scientist working at the intersection of climate change and health equity.

    Roxana Chicas, PhD, RN, is an assistant professor in the tenure track at Emory’s School of Nursing, where she conducted the first field-based intervention study examining methods to reduce core body temperature and improve health among farmworkers in the U.S. using real-time biomonitoring equipment.

    Chicas is a bilingual, bicultural investigator – and her path to nursing wasn’t a straight one. She immigrated to the United States from El Salvador as a child, where she was undocumented before receiving temporary protected status that allowed her to work in the U.S., which she did in lieu of graduating high school.

    roxana-chicas2.jpg
    Source: Roxana Chicas/Emory University

    She began working in a pediatric office as a billing administrator, and became an unofficial interpreter for patients and families, which gave her an initial taste of working in the healthcare field. One of the doctors with whom she worked helped her pursue nursing, and today, she brings important perspective to solving public health challenges exacerbated by climate change.

    In the last year, Chicas and her team have been working on developing a biomedical patch to be worn on the chest and monitor the physiological response of heat exposure.

    “The idea is that eventually, this patch will be able to predict when someone is heading into heat exhaustion and set off an alarm, so that farmworkers – or any outdoor worker – can take a break and cool down before going back to work,” she said.

    They currently have data on 50 construction workers and are planning to collect data with 100 farmworkers in Florida this summer.

    “Nurses and future nurses who want to conduct research and improve community health should know that they are needed. I don't want anyone to feel intimidated by research,” she says. “I see the energy, the motivation, and the commitment of nursing students to achieve health, equity, and be visionary nurse leaders and scholars. They will guide our country and the world to a more equitable society.”

    Roxana Chicas
    In honor of Earth Day & Minority Health Month, meet a nurse scientist working at the intersection of climate change, health equity, and innovative nursing research. Roxana Chicas, PhD, RN, represents the power of nurses to solve urgent public health challenges and improve human health for entire populations.

  • Nurses & Groundbreaking Startups

    Four nurse innovators redefining healthcare: Kwamane Liddell

    The nurse entrepreneur making social services accessible for families.

    As a hospital-based nurse, Kwamane Liddell, JD, MHA, BSN, saw how important social services are for patients to remain healthy. From access to food, to housing or transportation support and beyond, Liddell saw firsthand the gaps that existed when patients and communities didn’t have access to the resources they needed.

    image of Nurse Entrepreneur Kwamane Liddell
    Source: Kwamane Liddell

    Liddell also saw the potential of technology to solve accessibility gaps. This insight led him first to create Nutrible, a technology platform that helps healthcare providers connect patients with healthy food aligned with their medical and cultural needs. Today, Nutrible has evolved into ThriveLink, an AI-powered startup empowering families to sign up for programs like health insurance, food stamps and utility assistance by verbalizing their answers to application questions.

    Rather than filling out forms – which present challenges for those with language barriers, literacy challenges, or conditions that make reading or writing difficult, individuals can hear and respond to application questions verbally, expanding access to needed services.

    “To me, being a nurse means changing the lives of people who need it most,” Liddell said. “We can make an impact in so many ways, whether it be at the bedside, or in policy and technology, we have the ability and the knowledge to change the world.”

    His advice for nurses interested in entrepreneurship, innovation and community health: “Think big but take small steps. I learned things at every step of my journey, and the steps built on each other. That’s enabled me to make a big impact.”

    As a hospital-based nurse, Kwamane Liddell saw how important it was for patients to have healthy meals tailored to their medical needs. Liddell created Nutrible, a technology platform that helps healthcare providers connect patients with healthy food aligned with their medical and cultural needs.

In alignment with a long-standing commitment to supporting frontline health workers, Johnson & Johnson is proud to continue our legacy of advocating for, elevating and empowering the nursing profession by working with our partners to attract and strengthen an innovative, thriving and diverse nursing workforce, empowered to advance health equity and transform healthcare.
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