Middletown resident named award winner in QuickFire Challenge

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A Monmouth Medical Center (MMC) pediatric nurse from Middletown has been named an awardee of the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge in COVID-19 Patient Care.

Kathleen Malouf, who works in Pediatric Medical Stay for MMC’s Unterberg Children’s Hospital in Long Branch, is the inventor of the IsoPouch, a simple, disposable, transparent pouch that adheres to an isolation gown.

The IsoPouch can help health workers quickly and easily gather supplies and preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), according to a press release.

Malouf joins Jennifer Stinson, a nurse scientist from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, to be recognized among hundreds of applicants worldwide for innovative ideas aiming to improve COVID-19 patient care, according to the press release.

The Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge series invites millions of nurses worldwide to submit ideas for new devices, health technologies, protocols or treatment approaches.

In 2020, the sixth challenge was launched focused on innovations in COVID-19 patient care. Inspired by the innovative nurse-led solutions that emerged from the NurseHack4Health virtual nurse hackathon in May 2020, this challenge invited nurses from around the world to share their novel ideas aimed at improving patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, according to the press release.

In announcing the challenge, Johnson & Johnson Innovation noted the COVID-19 pandemic has raised new patient care challenges for nurses and health workers and brought into focus the obstacles they face around the world, every day.

“COVID-19 has brought forth many new healthcare challenges and it was inspiring to see nurses once again applying innovative thinking with the aim to create potential solutions to improve and transform healthcare,” said Lynda Benton, Senior Director, Corporate Equity, at the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies.

“We were thrilled to collaborate with the American Organization of Nurse Leaders (AONL) and the Society of Nurse Scientists Innovators Entrepreneurs and Leaders (SONSIEL) in a QuickFire Challenge that could spotlight and support the ingenuity of nurses on the front line that we have seen throughout this pandemic,” Benton said.

Diann Johnston, Vice President of Patient Care Services and Regional Chief Nursing Officer, said that together with Johnson & Johnson Innovation, AONL and SONSIEL, Monmouth Medical Center is proud to share the announcement of Malouf’s award.

“In January 2020, we became Magnet designated by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and among the criteria for our Magnet recognition is that our nurses must be recognized for their contributions to the hospital,” Johnston said. “Our results in this area were among those recognized as ‘exemplars’ and this new innovation by Kathleen is an incredible example of how our nurses continue to shine.”

Malouf said the idea for her invention came from a desire to support the delivery of more efficient and safe patient care – a need she said escalated significantly while caring for COVID-19 patients.

“Back in April, I was redeployed from my job in Pediatric Medical Day Stay to be a nurse extender in our new COVID-19 intensive care unit.

“I was accustomed to using my scrub pockets to hold everything I would need when caring for my pediatric patients, but when I shifted to caring for COVID-19 patients and wearing layers of PPE, my pockets became inaccessible and I found myself unable to hold all of the supplies I needed when visiting a patient’s room.

“Because of this, there would be forgotten supplies or supplies that either a team member or I would drop on the floor and therefore waste — and sometimes we had to open doors to shout for assistance with a forgotten item,” Malouf was quoted as saying in the press release.

Noting this was not an ideal situation when she and her colleagues needed to minimize moving in and out of patient care rooms and preserve PPE, she realized they needed a simple, efficient, safe way to access medical supplies needed for patient care when they could no longer rely on safely accessing their pockets.

“I noticed a lot of my fellow nurses were having the same problem and I began to think about a solution, and realized what we needed was a pocket for our isolation gowns — almost like a fanny pack — that could help store supplies, stick on and come off easily with our isolation gowns, and wouldn’t interfere with our PPE; that led me to create the IsoPouch, which is short for Isolation Pouch,” she said.

The IsoPouch fits into and supports a nurse’s natural workflow in caring for COVID-19 patients, enabling nurses to use the pouch to gather the supplies they will need before entering a patient care room. It allows them to don their PPE and stick the pouch to the gown, and when finished, just doff the pouch with the gown, according to the press release.

“It’s a simple solution, but it has the potential to help nurses and other front-line health workers provide more sanitary and efficient care, especially in high-stress environments like ICUs,” Malouf added.

Malouf said she is looking forward to the mentorship and the funding to help her further develop her prototypes of the IsoPouch, begin manufacturing, explore different sizes and materials, and pursue a patent.

“For the longest time, I have been keeping a list on my phone of ideas that could help improve patient care or our daily workflow, and when I heard about this Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge from our Magnet Program Director, I thought it would be a great opportunity.

“It means so much to be recognized for one of my ideas and I’m really looking forward to the mentorship and the funding to help me further develop my prototypes of the IsoPouch.

“I want to focus on getting this product to those on the front lines of this health crisis first, but I also know there are opportunities to expand this beyond healthcare to other industries that use isolation gowns, such as nuclear, chemical, aerospace and even the food industry.

“Nurses are not conditioned to be thought of as innovators, but nurses are in the trenches of healthcare every day, so our insights are vital in innovation.

“We are constantly adapting, growing, changing, learning and overcoming obstacles, and I would encourage nurses with great ideas to take a leap of faith and come forward with your ideas and products, because just by believing in yourself, you can change healthcare. It’s within your power,” Malouf said.