In celebration of National Nurses Week, our CipherHealth nurses share how they are driving innovation in healthcare through patient engagement technology. This is part two in a series of blog posts authored by our nurses; see part three here.
Despite undergoing surgery just one day ago, the patient was alone. The occasional eruptions of laughter from the parade of cheerful visitors on route to see their loved ones down the hall seemed to magnify the stillness in his room. I stepped in gingerly, careful to not startle the patient. With a generous smile, he invited me to pull up a chair. The first thing I noticed were the deeply-engraved laugh lines in his face, forming the map of his life. Time seemed to slow to a standstill as the patient recalled stories throughout his youth, vividly recounting the Vietnam War, traveling around the world, and raising a family of young boys. He shared that his three sons, now in their late 30’s, were all practicing surgeons. Then, he turned to me and asked that question I knew all too well as a junior in high school: What did I want to be when I grew up?
To me, this seemed to stem from the deeper, and more important, question: Who do I want to be? I told the patient what I knew to be true as an earnest 16-year-old, and what remains true today: I want to help people through their worst days, when their worlds are collapsing and life seems like it will never be the same. On those days, I want to take away the pain. To help shoulder the burden that seems insurmountable. To listen, to comfort. I admitted that I wasn’t sure exactly what profession I wanted to pursue, but I was thinking about becoming a neurosurgeon. Without skipping a beat, the patient asked me two questions: Do you want to spend most of your time in the operating room, where your patients are unconscious? Do you want to walk alongside patients and their family members as they experience everyday trials and the joys, advocating on their behalf? And so my nursing career began.
As a student in the Nursing and Healthcare Management Dual-Degree Program at the University of Pennsylvania, I learned that the best solutions always cross the lines that we draw between disciplines. Simultaneously immersed in the clinical setting and in the world of healthcare beyond the bedside, I spoke both languages fluently. As a nursing student, I took care of patients on the front lines of healthcare, knee-deep in the trenches of clinical processes and workflows. As a business student, I took a deep dive into the management, financing, and economics of the healthcare sector, developing a nuanced understanding of healthcare markets and the factors that shape decision-making at the policy level and at the level of the organization.
It has been the honor of a lifetime to care for others when they are at their most vulnerable, to play some role – however small – in the beautiful, messy, meaningful saga of a human life. Today, I believe the greatest challenges in healthcare are business problems. I see the greater potential to improve healthcare on a systems level, impacting patients and providers on a larger scale. I want the impact of my life’s work to have a greater scope than the three or four patients that I cared for every 12-hour shift.
In my final semester, I collaborated with an interdisciplinary team at the Penn Medicine Center for Healthcare Innovation to improve communication among providers at the point of care with a targeted mobile application that was integrated into the daily workflow of front-line clinicians. I loved leveraging my training as a nurse to improve the information dissemination process within complex healthcare environments. Technology empowers healthcare professionals to provide higher-quality and safer care to more patients. After all, to err is human – but with technology, nurses can better deliver upon our promise of restoring, maintaining, and promoting the best possible quality of life for each of our patients. At CipherHealth, I have the great privilege of being part of this team of courageous dreamers and doers that is transforming how healthcare is delivered, experienced, and perceived. In my role, I develop and implement strategic content to engage healthcare leaders along the journey of achieving the Quadruple Aim. In all that I do, I am motivated by empathy: I understand the challenges that providers face at the bedside because these were my challenges, too. These were my patients, too.
The broadest contours of our lives are shaped by choice. We choose the causes that we serve: to heal, to protect, to defend. At the bedside, in the boardroom, on the research bench, and at the policy table – I am and always will be a nurse. I want to help as many people as I can through driving systemic change in healthcare with technology. I want to move the needle beyond the incremental band-aid fixes, towards the solutions that impact the future of the healthcare delivery model.