Nurses Showed Me That

Innovation is everywhere, and it behooves us to act as elements to enable it to happen. Empower those who would bring change and should someone with the knowledge wish to share and spread it, then let it be. Innovation is a result of necessity and the need for change; a little diversion from the path we know to get to the path we need.

Boston has been my home for the past ten months and ever since moving to this city, a few words have grown in their definition and have therefore also expanded my skylines. Gene Roddenberry once said, “It isn’t all over; everything has not been invented; the human adventure is just beginning.” He was, of course, referring to innovation. A word I’ve since fallen in love with and have also come to take the words from Roddenberry to heart. Nurses, it would seem, would show me that Roddenberry’s words are indeed true; the human adventure is just beginning. Innovation is everywhere.


Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 10.50.39 AMOn the evening of Friday, June, 17th 2016 the green line was taking Eric and me to North Eastern University for what would be the first ever Nursing Innovation Summit and Hackathon held by the Bouvé College of Health Science.

The Motivation

Thanks to my mother, Tineke, who up until 2008 was the managing director of Port Perry’s Lakeridge Health Hospital, I grew in the healthcare environment. I remember listening to her speak about the number of beds needed for inpatients and how many nurses needed to be on staff. Who would be the “on-call surgeon” and who would be in triage?

In April of 2014, my mother was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and as such became a patient dealing with the Canadian health care system. While growing up, and having spent so much time calling the hospital a second home, I’d begun to realize that there was room for creation. Some of the systems in place, although they were working, weren’t as efficient as they could be. When my mother became a patient and not the practitioner much of my childhood worries came to life. Since then, I’ve resolved to find a way to improve the health care system with new innovation, but where I had the passion and business acumen, I lacked the health sciences studies in my background. It, therefore, came as a great opportunity to participate in a hackathon that would encourage nurses, nursing students and business students to develop innovative ideas to further improve health care systems and practices.

Nancy Hanrahan, the dean of North Eastern’s School of Nursing, stated that nurses are around patients 24 hours a day, it, therefore, comes as a given that they would be able to disseminate information or be the start for a rippling change in the health care system. Nurses are often under appreciated and yet they bear a substantial workload in keeping patients alive, for example. But it is also often overlooked that they have the responsibility to convey the healthcare lingo in a way that is understandable to the everyday patient. This is no easy task. Therefore, who better to develop the system, make it comprehensible, fill in the holes and tighten the ropes, than a nurse?

This Friday evening was packed with speakers who held a wide variety of expertise, passions, and talents ranging either from nursing to media. Each of whom was able to divulge their own secret methods for meeting a need and influencing change. Most memorably, the Chair of Health Sciences Entrepreneurs and Chair of Infusion Venture, Joe Fleming listed the various jobs he’d held throughout life. Which would seem overly prolific, but his purpose in doing this was to simply state that throughout his life he’d learned a few key facts and three of which stood out to me: the first being that you can’t please everyone, the second being to find a passion and confidently pursue it, and finally that change is good.

12208573_1654757458147036_6467304139771657892_n.jpgRebecca Love, Founder of and the chairwoman of the hackathon, spoke after a series of motivating speeches and had nothing but words of encouragement. Love spoke with conviction stating this Nursing Innovation Hackathon would be the precedent set, that here, we’re making history.

Following this, a number of individuals stood to give a one-minute pitch in order to form the teams we’d be working in throughout the weekend. Twenty-one pitches were made and in the end nine teams were formed. Ideas ranged from improving ambulatory services to a system that would save patients from overdosing to hospital readmissions, to a device that would monitor your heart rate. Each idea focusing on a specific problem that had been observed and now could have the potential to be solved. Each person who stood, was linked either in a deeply personal manner or had seen it every day during the work day.

Quite honestly, Eric and I were on the edge of our seats, eager to put our knowledge of business to use and also excited to learn more about health care from the perspective of others.

The Hackathon

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 10.49.30 AM
Photo Credit: Andrew Lopez, Team HeartCare: Eric Chast, Monica Sabia, Lauren Koenig (mentor), Tricia Demmers, Laura Rossi, Brandon Yip, Gowtham Suresh

Our team, HeartCare, came together first with the idea that we’d develop an application that would ensure patients that the ambulance would be there shortly. This idea then morphed into medicine adherence, and we decided to focus on the 10% patients who take up 70% of the health care dollar.

The first steps in a hackathon consist of “ideation” and “creaction”, which is another way of saying that we needed to find a solution and then actualize it. The second steps are to answer these fundamental questions: What is the problem? Why does it need to be solved? Who and where is the market? How do the revenue streams look?

Lauren Koenig,  CEO of Twip,and mentor in the hackathon, bestowed upon the team some much needed tough love and after over 12 hours of “creaction,” we developed a business plan for an application. This would not only provide medication reminders and an avatar that would allow patients to interact with their medication in a way that would allow them to understand why they were taking the medication; this application would provide an interactive education and autonomy for the patient.

Each team went through the same grilling yet enlightening process, deliberating and brainstorming, and writing a business plan. The fun doesn’t stop there, next the idea must be sold to the investors. Lastly, we were to discern which information was relevant for the judges, and pitch for three minutes on our solution to the problem we had defined.

Sound easy? Well it isn’t, but the best things in life are worth the tougher learning curves.Our team didn’t win, but we learned what was necessary in order to put together ideas and funnel it from a system to an application, from a problem to a possible solution.

Of the teams that participated  and pitched, all of whom were equally in depth and eager to solve some the most prominent health care issues, Telecode, Are You Contagious, and Shareanonymous took home the prizes.

Are You Contagious is an app that would allow nurses to track and alert parents of outbreaks of illnesses and contagious conditions within a school setting. While Shareanonymous is an app-based platform that would allow college students who under emotional distress to connect anonymously with student counselors and other students to create a sharing community and minimize the amount of suicides of college students.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 10.48.24 AM
Team TeleCode, Winner of the first Nursing Innovation Hackathon posing with Nancy Hanrahan (Dean of School of Nursing at Northeastern) and Dr. Marybeth Pompei, Sr. Vice President and Chief Clinical Scientist, Exergen Corporation

Telecode, seeks to develop a system that would link nurses and physicians at the bedside within the first few minutes of any code, with experts in CPR and Codes via a telehealth system to make sure the top quality in care is delivered. This would minimize the amount of deaths resulting from a code, which is a desperate and growing need around the world. In the United States alone, 350,000 deaths occur due to a code situation.

I extend hearty congratulations to the winners and all teams and participants of the first ever Nursing Hackathon!


The weekend drew to a formidable close with teams congratulating one another, learning from each other and excited to step out and change health care for the betterment of both the patient and healthcare practitioner. It proves that innovation is a product of necessity and a development from a need for change. Rebecca Love, was, therefore correct when she stated that here we’re making history, as because of this weekend needed changes will occur in order to further health care.

My mother passed away in September of 2014 and I couldn’t help but wish that she could have been present for this historic hackathon for the healthcare field, I believe it would have been somewhat of a dream come true for her. I came away knowing and understanding more about the genuine issues facing nurses, patients, hospitals, doctors, and the healthcare system in general. It is equally important, though that I came away with the knowledge that innovation isn’t hidden in corners, it’s out there in plain sight. Nurses and this hackathon helped me to fully understand that innovation is everywhere.

One simply has to open their eyes to it.


~Tricia Demmers, PR, Editor, Journalist

MBA Candidate at Hult International Business School

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