by Robin Young-Cournoyer, Associate Professor, Goodwin University
In 2019, Johnson and Johnson sponsored the inaugural SONSIEL Nurse Hackathon, the most inspiring conference I had ever attended, full of health care professionals who had innovative spirit and were looking to improve aspects of health care. During that weekend, my continuous question was, “How can I incorporate spirit into the classroom as a learning opportunity?”
In 2021, when reviewing the Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) for the professionalism course I was about to teach, the program outcomes, and the 2021 AACN Essentials, I realized a hackathon could be a perfect enhancement for this experience. And so, on December 16, 2021, Goodwin University celebrated its first nurse hackathon, where students present a hack or solution to a problem or gap they see in the nursing field.
Following that success, in December 2022 Goodwin’s ABSN nursing students welcomed healthcare professionals back to campus for a second hackathon.
The more we connect students with each other and with their learning, the better equipped they will be to become lifelong learners and critical thinkers. At this second hackathon, the focus was on “How can we provide support to the healthcare team of professionals?”
This cohort of ABSN students were in the first semester of their nursing program and had just begun their clinical rotations at extended care facilities (ECF). For their hackathon presentations, the students collaboratively selected topics which included employee retention, improving EHR interoperability, community health resource integration, a traveling nurse rating system, enhancing communication, a recharge room, and mental health First Aid training of health care workers. Each group presented to a panel of administrators from their ECFs, affording the students an opportunity to meet the management teams from their clinical settings as well as other clinical mangers and volunteers from different business organizations. The students impressed the panelists, their peers, and other participants with prevalent issues and topics relevant to the current state of health care.
As their nursing professor, I am extremely grateful to all the students in this class who were so immersed in their topics. When they divided into their groups during class, there was such excitement in the air. I loved hearing their topics and watching them evolve into amazing presentations. My hope for my students is that they continue to look for the gap in the field if nursing and become the change agents needed in health care. When presenting a problem, it is crucial they come with potential solutions. I wish that all of you reading this consider attending a hackathon in your field of work or consider holding one at your facility. It is an event that promotes collaboration and robust learning opportunities for everyone involved. My takeaway from this assignment is that we are provided with the best ideas from our beginner nurses, because they are seeing the world through a clear lens and can enlighten us to what is possible. We need to invite everyone to the table and collectively solve the gaps in health care.
A special thank you to all the students and panelists who participated, including:
Laurie Cianci (panelist)
Parkville Care Center, Hartford, Connecticut
Dr. Sandi Coyne-Gilbert (panelist)
Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, Goodwin University
Lucia Dike (panelist)
Riverside Health & Rehabilitation, East Hartford, Connecticut
Dana Lowes-Hobson (student)
“[My takeaway is to] start simple and small with your hack. I think the panel was receptive to our Recharge Room idea because it was simple and easy to understand. If you want to be successful, start early gathering your info, let everyone have some input, let people express their concerns on how the project is going, and gather the best estimated cost information you can find. Management or administration will not listen if you don’t have the cost information available for your project or ‘hack’ for a problem.”
Patrick Neagle (panelist)
Touchpoint Rehab, Manchester, Connecticut
“[My takeaway is] the creativity of the presentations. Each topic is a huge challenge in today’s healthcare setting so touching on all of them was extremely helpful. We may look to implement something with the behavior education. We have something in-house, but with our population, the more education the better. I would love to be invited to the hackathon again!”
Judy Resnick (panelist)
Connecticut Business, and Industry Association (retired)
Ashley Soyka (panelist)
Ingraham Manor, Bristol, Connecticut
“Thank you so much for including me in the hackathon. I am so impressed with folks who are so early in their careers coming up with innovative solutions to the challenges we face in health care. My takeaway is that each of us has the ability to make changes to improve our profession. I intend to make a wellness room at the facility where I work to continue to support our nurses’ wellbeing. I would love to host a hackathon at my facility. I know the nurses at Ingraham Manor have so many creative ideas and this is a way to think and talk about them.”
Robin Young-Cournoyer was born in Revere, Massachusetts, and grew up in Nashua, New Hampshire. She and her husband, Tony, met in college and have raised three amazing young men. She launched Nurse Consultants LLC, an independent childcare consulting company in 1990. This has enabled her to work with children, childcare teachers, owners, and directors. She has had the opportunity to work in many specialty areas. She is passionate about our seniors and making sure they have access to the resources in the community. She is a board member on the council on aging, GSSSI, and the Holland Helpers. In 2019, she launched a second company, Advocates for Senior Independence. Her goal after graduating from UConn was to obtain employment as a college professor working with a diverse group of students. Robin feels it is such an honor to be part of the very welcoming Goodwin University community and all it has to offer to students.