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Nursing Student Entrepreneurs Win with An Idea We Care About  

Nursing students participating in Pirates Pitch.Eight students from the Nursing Cohort of the Buccino Leadership Institute demonstrated their entrepreneurial spirit at the annual Pirates Pitch competition. Their innovative healthcare idea resonated with audience and judges, earning them high praise and prize money as well as an opportunity to represent Seton Hall in the statewide UPitchNJ competition. Judges from both events recognized the potential for their product to transform patient care by improving call response times in the hospital setting. As freshmen participants, their hard work in addressing an issue of shared importance to both patients and healthcare providers was highly impressive.

Katie Mazzarelli, a first-year nursing student, came up with the idea: develop a way to improve upon the bedside patient call device currently used in most hospital systems. According to research gathered by the team for their business proposal, the estimated average call response time is 12 to 30 minutes. The issue has always involved prioritizing the severity of patient needs efficiently, and in a timely manner. Research further indicated that extended response times not only directly affect quality of care but have a significant impact on patient satisfaction scores. Currently, only one in five patients give a "good" rating for call response time. Patient satisfaction is measured through a government mandated survey, Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), requested from all patients after discharge. With 30 percent of all Medicare reimbursement dependent on HCAHPS results, the financial impact is substantial when HCAHPS benchmarks are not met. Patient safety is also an important related factor with a single patient fall costing a healthcare facility an average of $30,000.

Mazzarelli, along with her fellow students Annmarie Ryan, Allison Lamoureux, Isabella Valentino, Julia Skerratt, Isabel Finan, Patricia Esposito, and Gary Kraft may have come up with a solution to the problem. They call it Care Call. 
The plan for Care Call involves the creation of a specialized tablet at each patient's bedside. On-screen icons allow the patient to alert healthcare personnel for needs such as water and new bedding, as well as urgent matters related to the bathroom or feeling sick. The request is streamlined directly to the appropriate staff depending on each need: RN, nursing assistant. Care Call prioritizes and organizes patient response according to level of care required and eliminates the need for an intermediary at the front desk who relays the call to the appropriate personnel.

Dr. Kathy Connolly, associate director for Nursing at the Buccino Leadership Institute, encouraged the students to bring their idea in the form of a proposal to Seton Hall's ninth annual Pirate's Pitch competition, part of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies entrepreneurship education program. Dr. Connolly's mentoring, along with that of Professor Susan Scherreik-Hynes, director of the Center, guided the team of eight beyond being nursing students to becoming competitive business entrepreneurs. According to Dr. Connolly, "members of the Stillman Business School community, especially Professor Scherreik and Entrepreneurship Club President Chase Mulligan, were vital resources for guidance and information. The project was a magnificent and uplifting display of team effort." Mazzarelli added, "That's the great thing about Seton Hall. We all help each other."

Through a PowerPoint and video presentation, the team was able to clearly and concisely identify a problem, its effects, a solution, and a plan for future development, all supported with data on research, market analytics, and target marketing.

Out of 16 proposals, the Care Call team was chosen as one of four finalists to compete in front of a panel of senior ranking officers and founders from various areas of public and private industry at Pirates Pitch, 2019. For the first time, the event was live streamed before an audience in Jubilee Auditorium, which included many College of Nursing students, faculty and deans. 

Mazzarelli, Ryan and Lamoureux delivered the presentation and pitch on behalf of their team. "We had no business background at all, so we were worried how we might do against the other business-based teams," states Mazzarelli. "However, once we were onstage and got such positive feedback from the judges and the audience, it really boosted our confidence."

The response was overwhelming. The Care Call team earned second place honors in the amount of $3,500 in addition to a $500 prize for the Audience Choice award of the evening.

The team was subsequently chosen to represent Seton Hall in the state-wide UPitchNJ competition which was held on the Seton Hall campus in late April. The competition, sponsored by the New Jersey Collegiate Entrepreneurship Consortium, represents entrepreneurship education programs at New Jersey's four-year colleges and universities. In addition to Seton Hall, the other 11 institutions included Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Montclair State, Princeton, Rider, Rowan, Rutgers, and William Paterson Universities as well as Ramapo College, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Stevens Institute of Technology.

According to UPitchNJ's guidelines, teams are evaluated on their perceived ability to execute their idea into a viable, profitable business, and/or venture with significant social value. Even among some of the best and brightest in the state, including Ivy League competitors, the Care Call team once again was voted as the audience favorite and awarded $250 for its innovative concept that struck a personal note with those in attendance. Dr. Bryan Price, Executive Director of Buccino Leadership Institute, who was present in the audience at both events adds, "I'm tremendously proud of our nursing leaders, who performed amazingly well against some impressive, high-caliber competition. To think they are doing this as freshman is amazing."

Dr. Connolly affirms, "This project has proven that nurses can be entrepreneurs. They understand best what goes on at the bedside and are well-equipped to inform advancements in healthcare through their first-hand knowledge and experience."

Dr. Marie Foley, Dean of the College of Nursing states, "I am delighted that our first-year nursing leadership students are taking part in this initiative. Being on the front line in healthcare, nurses are very innovative and are aware of transformations needed to improve care. However, there are very few nurses who hold patents, mainly because nurses might not know how to move their ideas and innovations forward. They may lack time and resources and not have necessary connections to lawyers and engineers. Giving our students the opportunities and resources which they would not necessarily have in their practice environments to create these innovations will improve healthcare."

Foley continued, "We are so proud of our students for progressing to the level they have in Pirates Pitch and UPitchNJ. They were the only freshmen participating in Pirates Pitch. So much of their success is also due to the support of their faculty advisor, Dr. Kathy Connolly, the mentorship of Professor Susan Scherreik, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, and Dr. Bryan Price, Executive Director of Buccino Leadership Institute."

With ingenuity and much work ahead, these eight first-year nursing leadership students may make the next visit to the hospital just a little bit easier for people everywhere.

Categories: Alumni , Health and Medicine , Research

For more information, please contact:

  • Michael Giorgio
  • (973) 275-4953
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