Hackathon to help nurses drive innovation in healthcare

Because nurses work with patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Northeastern School of Nursing Dean Nancy Hanrahan said they are in a unique position to not only disseminate healthcare startups and ventures coming from the business or computer science sectors, but more importantly create their own.

This weekend, Northeastern will provide an immersive and interdisciplinary platform to foster and grow nurses’ ideas.

Beginning Friday, the School of Nursing in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences will host the three-day Nurse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Summit and Hackathon, where more than 200 nurses will gather to discuss their solutions and hone the skills they need to bring them to fruition.

“This is an experiential conference focused on empowering nurses to use design skills and innovation to create solutions that will impact patients,” said Hanrahan, who joined Northeastern as a professor and dean last year.

The summit, on Friday, will include keynote speakers such as Tiffany Kelly, MS/MBA’08, who founded Nightingale Apps—a health information technology company offering mobile applications to nurses working in hospital settings—and brainstorming sessions focused on specific themes.

The hackathon will take place Saturday and Sunday, during which more than two dozen industry experts, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center program director Patricia Bourie and Dr. Larry Weiss, chief medical officer of aobiome, will help the nurses develop their healthcare solutions.

This is an experiential conference focused on empowering nurses to use design skills and innovation to create solutions that will impact patients.”
—Nancy Hanrahan

This weekend’s event will also mark the opening of the Nurse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute, which will host business seminars and a startup academy geared toward nurses.

“A number of the nurses attending this weekend are coming from the larger health systems we have in Boston and may already have an idea or solution,” said Hanrahan. “We are going to do a deep dive into those ideas, then send those nurses back into their health system environments with the tools and insight they need.”

Hanrahan, who has more than 20 years of experience as a healthcare practitioner and administrator, added there are numerous parts of the healthcare system that can be improved by innovative nurses.

This summit will focus on three key areas: incorporating Big Data into healthcare, transforming the patient and family experience, and motivating patient behavior changes.

Hanrahan has seen firsthand the impact design-thinking and innovation can have on healthcare. She shared a story about a nurse who created a video game to teach young asthma patients how to use their inhaler. She also led a team of students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania that developed a web-​​based toolkit to help nurses recognize symptoms of post-​​traumatic stress disorder in veterans and facilitate effective care and interventions. In 2014, the White House highlighted this work among other innovative projects that addressed mental health issues facing veterans.

“Nurses are very passionate about getting patients what they need,” Hanrahan said. “And our mission is for them to go into work with the idea that they are responsible for improving the healthcare environment.”