Recently, Nurse Alice had the opportunity to interview Spencer Jones, nurse entrepreneur and Nurse.org’s Nurse Innovator of the Year award recipient to discuss his background in nursing, his experience working in various healthcare settings, and the challenges he faced while developing his innovative product. Spencer also shares tips for other nurses aspiring to have an impact in the healthcare industry through innovation, including the importance of collaboration and teamwork.
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The Spark of Innovation
Spencer’s interest in healthcare began at an early age, as he grew up in a household with a father who worked as a CRN. Initially, Jones pursued a pre-med track but later switched to nursing, drawn to the idea of becoming an anesthetist. During nursing school, he worked as a CNA at a rehabilitation facility and gained experience in various healthcare settings, including a skilled nursing facility and an inpatient facility. These experiences played a crucial role in shaping his entrepreneurial mindset.
His journey as an innovator began during Spencer’s time as a nurse on a challenging night shift med-surg unit. Faced with frequent IV catheter failures, he recognized the need for improved vascular access devices. Spencer felt strongly that patients and nurses deserved better solutions for this critical aspect of care. Motivated by the desire to make a difference, he started ideating and sketching out designs for innovative medical devices. His focus initially revolved around creating a peripheral IV catheter with two lumens, which led to the development of the B-VAD (Bifurcated Venous Access Device).
Identifying and Overcoming Challenges
Spencer’s passion for solving problems and improving patient care drove him to pursue his innovative ideas further. He immersed himself in extensive research, exploring existing patents and prior art in the field. However, the path to bringing his inventions to life was not without hurdles. As a nurse, he lacked formal education in invention and entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, his determination led Spencer to seek guidance from an entrepreneurial support organization, Innovate Arkansas. With their support, he gained valuable insights, learned essential concepts, and received the confidence boost needed to forge ahead.
From Concept to Reality: Revolutionizing Patient Care
The commitment to Spencer’s vision pushed him to translate his ideas into tangible prototypes. He invested significant time and effort into building function models of his devices. The intricate work involved in creating medical devices highlights the dedication and persistence required to bring innovations to fruition.
Spencer’s inventions have the potential to revolutionize patient care, particularly in the area of intravenous (IV) access. His B-VAD device offers a solution to the common problem of requiring additional blood draws after initial IV placement. By allowing blood draws from preexisting IV catheters, the device eliminates the need for additional needle sticks, reducing patient discomfort and improving overall satisfaction. This innovation has the potential to save time, reduce costs, and enhance the patient experience.
Image source: Lineus Medical Press Release
Financial Considerations and Handling Transitions
Recognizing the financial challenges that come with entrepreneurship, Spencer shared his experience of balancing nursing and his startup. Being a young nurse at the time, he did not have significant savings, so he continued working while exploring entrepreneurship opportunities. He also emphasized the value of nurses’ licenses and the high demand for nursing professionals, providing a sense of security for those willing to take risks.
Spencer stressed the importance for open communication with employers when pursuing entrepreneurial ventures alongside nursing. He advises nurses to be upfront about their moonlighting projects and to understand any legal obligations or disclosure requirements. By informing his employer about his entrepreneurial pursuits from day one, Spencer established transparency and laid the foundation for a supportive environment.
His entrepreneurial journey took a significant turn when Spencer was accepted into an accelerator program in Memphis. However, this meant relocating for three months, posing a challenge for his nursing job. Spencer approached his employer with his remarkable opportunity, seeking a leave of absence to explore entrepreneurship. The hospital, recognizing the potential, granted his request, showcasing the significance of nurses’ expertise and the understanding of their value in the industry.
Navigating Ownership and Innovation
There are concerns surrounding ownership of innovative ideas and potential conflicts with hospitals or employers. Spencer acknowledges that each situation can vary, and it is crucial to review employment agreements, offer letters, and policies to understand the disclosure and ownership obligations. Consulting with human resources and legal professionals can provide clarity in these matters.
Image source: University of Arkansas News
Nurses as Innovators and the Power of Collaboration
Due to their direct patient care experiences, Spencer believes that nurses possess valuable insights and user needs for product innovation. He encourages nurses to collaborate with entrepreneurial support organizations, medical device companies, or startups to contribute their expertise and ideas. Innovation in nursing can range from creating new processes within a facility to offering input for device development.
While nurses can be powerful together, it is important to break out of the nursing bubble and collaborate with professionals from diverse industries. Spencer suggests fostering cross-functional coursework and collaboration between nursing and disciplines like finance, sales, and marketing. By embracing interdisciplinary collaboration, nurses can contribute to meaningful and effective healthcare innovation.
Spencer Jones is a shining example of the impact and transformative power of nurse innovation. His story is inspiring to many nurses that are looking to also advance healthcare through entrepreneurship and innovation.