Part 1: Interview with Founder Erik Andersen, RN – What makes a “hack”?


Tell us about your background as a nurse?

I am an ICU bedside nurse at WakeMed Health & Hospital in Cary, North Carolina. I received my nursing degree at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and have been in practice for over 7 years, 4 years in the ED and the last 3 years in the ICU. Our ICU mostly serves adults with an average patient age of around 60. We see it all – from cardiac and stroke patients, to alcohol withdrawal, to COVID, including quite a bit of sepsis in our unit.

How would you define a “hack”?

In the nursing world, a “hack” refers to a bedside innovation or adaptation that improves care, increases safety, saves time, or makes the job easier. Hacks typically apply to areas of clinical practice that may not be specifically addressed in procedures and protocols, such as ways to prep for a procedure or secure a device during treatment. They are the little things that you learn along the way.

What was your intention around starting NurseHack? What was your inspiration?

While in nursing school I had the opportunity to take some biomedical engineering design courses that exposed me to innovative thinking and approaches. When I started clinicals I began to think like a problem-solver: What is frustrating and challenging? How can I find a better way to do it? My overall objective in launching NurseHack has been to encourage discussion and information-sharing among clinicians, nurses and others who are thinking creatively about how to improve patient care. NurseHack provides a platform to share their ideas and learn from others as well.

What are one or two of the most impressive hacks that you’ve seen? What has been their impact?

I was recently made aware of a great idea in managing COVID patients on ventilators. Patients on a ventilator need daily x-rays to verify correct tube placement. Portable x-ray machines eliminate the need for patient transport to the radiology department, but with the needed protections for COVID even this option becomes complicated. The radiology tech must don full barrier PPE and bring the portable x-ray machine into the room to shoot the x-ray, then the machine must be decontaminated after every patient use. A nurse in California shared an idea to slide the x-ray plate in a plastic bag to the room nurse, while wheeling the patient perpendicularly up to the window or glass door. The x-ray machine and technician remain outside the room to capture the shot, while the nurse in the room can step into the bathroom or wear a shield for protection. As radiation can penetrate glass, the shot can still be captured in this way, with the software filtering out any glass opacity that may show up on the image, but without contaminating the machine and saving a full set of PPE that the rad tech would need to wear. In a COVID surge, the potential impact of this alternative method of patient care could be huge.

You’ve been selected as one of the first J&J Nurse Innovators. Can you tell me about that program and what it means for you and your vision?

Participating in the J&J Nurse Innovation Fellowship has been very exciting for me professionally. I was selected as one of 12 fellows in this first-ever cohort. It is a two-year program that promotes collaboration among other nurse innovators and teaches leadership and entrepreneurial skills such as innovative thinking, feasibility assessment, regulatory requirements, and marketing. The other exciting aspect is how this program will pair with my Master’s program in Biomedical Engineering (BME) for innovation and entrepreneurship. I recently received word of my acceptance into the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill/North Carolina State University BME program and look forward to further innovation-related learning and collaboration.