Lisa Ousley, DNP, RN, FNP, saw a need in healthcare and created a solution.
A prototype of Ousley’s instructional dermatology surface models earned her first place and $7,500 of seed money at the NursePitch event during the American Nurses Association’s 2019 Quality and Innovation Conference last year. The conference focuses on innovation in nursing.
Ousley and her team create two- and three-dimensional instructional dermatology surface models of skin lesions. Nurse instructors and others can place these realistic-looking lesions on humans and mannequins to help educate students and clinicians about how to detect melanoma and other skin diseases.
Ousley, an assistant professor at East Tennessee State University’s College of Nursing Graduate Programs, came up with the idea while touring the school’s simulation lab.
“I looked around and saw all the IT and high-tech products that they had to train nurses and asked at the end of the tour, ‘Where are your dermatology tools?’” Ousley said.
The answer: There were none. Ousley learned there are only a few dermatology teaching tools on the market, and they are expensive.
Seeing an idea through from concept to reality
“A lightbulb went off in my head,” she said.
Ousley, a primary care nurse for almost 30 years, said she ran to her office and got one of the high-resolution, digital photographs of a melanoma she used to teach students. She manipulated the image to remove surrounding skin pixels, went to the hardware store and bought some window cling then darted over to use an older laser printer a few doors down from her office.
“I then took that photograph that I manipulated, printed it on the cling and literally ran back upstairs to put it on the mannequin, and it looked like the mannequin had melanoma,” she said.
Ousley put her creation on a colleague’s skin and it appeared the colleague had melanoma.
Feeling like she was onto something, Ousley assembled the people and services she’d need to go to the next level, including a nearby plastics company, a graphic design firm and engineering and digital media experts on campus. She partnered with nurse colleagues Retha Gentry, DNP, RN, FNP, and Candice Short, DNP, RN, FNP.
That was three years and a lot of hard work ago.
“I just had such a passion about the clinical urgency of improving (the diagnosis of) skin cancer and many dermatological diseases,” she said. “This could really fill a practice gap. As we got a little more sophisticated, it has just gotten better and better.”
NursePitch puts innovation in nursing on the map
The $7,500 and experience pitching the innovation in nursing at the ANA’s NursePitch event gave instructional dermatology surface models a platform.
Ousley said she’ll use the NursePitch winnings to purchase a 3D printer and more.
Ousley was one of five nurse-led innovation pitches delivered that day to conference attendees and a panel of judges. The judges chose the five from 45 online pitches they reviewed.
The chosen five competed for monetary prizes at the live, interactive event, which ANA compares to the TV show “Shark Tank.” Each contestant gave a 5-minute presentation, or pitch, of their innovative products and answered judges’ questions.
Second place and $5,000 went to Courtney Farr, MSN, RN, FNP, of House Calls, for her creation of a virtual stethoscope-otoscope that can be plugged into a phone, allowing healthcare providers to listen to heart, lung and abdominal sounds, as well as see into the patient’s mouth and ears remotely.
Third place and $2,500 went to David Bendell, MSN, RN, NE-BC, AKC, of Well Dot Health, for his innovation using computer vision and artificial intelligence to continuously monitor patients to determine their needs, including if they seem to be in pain or need to be repositioned.
The product gathers data and images and automatically uploads those to the electronic health record for viewing at the nurses’ station, according to ANA, which collaborated with HIMSS for the event.
For Ousley, the NursePitch experience propelled instructional dermatology surface models not just with money. Presenting to an audience and judges helped Ousley perfect her pitch in front of a professional organization, which she said will benefit her product moving forward.
“I think this is how innovation goes, from idea to patent and then from patent to marketability,” she said. “The entire process of the ANA NursePitch really provided a platform to be able to articulate what you are doing. To have that opportunity is just so encouraging and validating. When you validate a nurse innovator, you really are responsible for propelling the trajectory of the innovation.”
Innovation in nursing spurs new solutions
Nurses are natural innovators. “We know nurses are very creative,” said Bonnie Clipper, DNP, RN, MA, MBA, CENP, FACHE, former vice president of innovation at ANA and current chief clinical officer at Wambi, a workforce engagement company. “We know they’re amazing entrepreneurs. We know they invent all kinds of things.”
Whether they walk away with money or not, pitching helps nurses make people more aware of what they are doing.
“It gives them visibility, whether it’s through social media or via people in the pitch audience,” Clipper said. “It also helps them practice and refine their pitch, so they get better and better and more confident and comfortable.”
That comfort can come in handy when they pitch the idea to potential investors.
Clipper suggests nurses start to notice the solutions they come up with daily in practice to get their innovation in nursing going and then research nurse pitch events online. Using other keywords — including healthcare innovation pitch events — can help widen search options.
“Most importantly, they need to have a solution to a very real problem, so they have a pitch that does something of merit,” Clipper said. “Then it’s a matter of finding events where you can get some visibility.”
Clipper believes nurse-led innovation will transform healthcare.
“[Nurses] know what needs to change,” Clipper said. “The more we empower them, inspire them and energize them to solve the problems they see every day, that’s where solutions are going to come from.”
Nurses can monitor when NursePitch will open for online pitches by visiting the ANA’s innovation page.
Take this course to learn more about innovation in nursing:
Unlock Your Creativity: Be an Innovator!
(1 contact hr)
Creativity is more than just coming up with ideas. It’s the process of developing the ideas and transforming them into something useful. All of today’s scientific, technological marvels started as someone’s idea. Creativity is an essential component to advancing nursing practice. It includes terms such as imagination, ingenuity, resourcefulness, innovation and improvisation. Nurses have to think outside the box toward the ultimate goal of discovering new and better approaches for patient care. This continuing education module discusses the age of creativity and offers suggestions for helping nurses become more creative.