Calling All Nurses: Take a Chance and Make a Change! – March 2021
“Never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.” - Florence Nightingale
Sangeeta Agarawal, RN, MS
CEO & Founder of Helpsy Health
2019 NursePitch™ Winner
Growing up, this quote from Florence Nightingale stuck with me. I have always admired her dedication to seize the chance in innovating and pioneering improvements for healthcare within the 20th century. Personally, this quote reminds me that every well-known innovation starts somewhere so long as we take the opportunity.
After graduating from Arizona State University in 2003, I worked at IBM and later in performance engineering at Motorola. At the time, I saw a need for technology that can enable video communications and thus created a working prototype for video streaming, which was eventually acquired by Skype.This has been one of my joys of being an innovator - I was able to pioneer the technology behind video communications that proves to be significantly beneficial for the community, especially during this pandemic.
Unfortunately, during my journey working in the technology field, my health began to suffer. The experience deeply affected my philosophy in life and from then on, I decided to take control of my own health. Not only that, I developed a passion to help others live their lives to the fullest. Therefore, I dedicated my life to train as a yoga instructor, an oncology nurse at the Mayo Clinic & the Stanford Hospital and Clinics, and a researcher.
During my time as a nurse, I saw a lot of complications that could have been avoided if patients received continuous care. Moreover, when it comes to someone having a health issue, we’re hyper-focused on addressing that aspect, like the stroke or curing the cancer that we don’t see a lot of other issues, like emotional and social issues, feeling lost and lonely, affecting the treatments. Through my research in developing symptom management protocols, I wanted to help on a greater scale and improve the quality of lives of many people. Therefore, I joined the entrepreneurship accelerator at the University of California at San Francisco to figure out how to build a commercial company out of my research.
In 2016, I founded Helpsy, a virtual whole-health approach to care that utilizes the combination of high tech (artificially intelligent chatbot) and high touch (care team). Helpsy creates a custom care plan (physical, emotional, social and support services) and engages the patient 24/7 by monitoring symptoms, answering questions, and escalating care as needed. Helpsy results in significant savings for its members: An average $5,000 to $15,000 per patient going through a complex health issue. We have helped more than 25,000 patients so far across the country.
As an innovator, my journey is far from over. However, looking back, I am proud of my journey thus far. By carrying Florence Nightingale’s spirit of change, I managed to build my life and career with a focus of impacting others positively. Coming from a culture where options are usually limited with little opportunities to speak up, I am thrilled to have used my voice to make a change and inspire others.
As a nurse, you are an advocate, innovator, collaborator, and an inventor—all in one profession. If you are a nurse looking to innovate, here are my words of wisdom:
- Problem-solving is key. Identify the problem, brainstorm a scalable solution, and make sure there is a positive return.
- Build your circle of allies. Take part in innovation programs, mentorship, and follow other entrepreneurs that you admire.
- Do not give up. You will only learn by doing and (at times) failing. If you can recognize the cause of failure and improve, your efforts will be worth it. It is definitely a great feeling to know that you started an innovation that could change millions of lives.
Some people might say that they are afraid to start and act on an idea because they do not know where or how to start. However, as Florence Nightingale eloquently puts it, it doesn't matter where or how you start, what matters is that you grab the opportunity to innovate.