School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: A Letter of Appreciation to my #NurseHackathon Team

Meet my team!

This week’s blog post is a letter of appreciation to my team at the Sonsiel Nurse Hackathon sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, November 15 – November 17, 2019. If you ever have a chance to join a #NurseHackathon, especially one sponsored by Sonsiel and J&J, sign up and show up! I am still processing the experience, but I can share that you will come away changed for the better. 

Dear Teammates:

When I stepped before the microphone on Friday evening to pitch the problem of gun violence  as a public health epidemic, I had no idea that my tribe of gun violence prevention nurse activists would magically appear. There were so many fascinating pitches Friday night, many which went on to “win” the event, but you joined me on a most memorable journey. Thank you for co-creating a nurse-led, harm reduction initiative, steeped in evidence that focuses on safe gun storage. 

The #NurseHackathon process is challenging, rigorous, and encourages deep thinking to solve problems through a nursing lens. I was not sure when I signed up for the Hackathon that I would actually pitch a problem. When I walked into the registration area, I was greeted by Rebecca Love who challenged me to sign up for a pitch. I immediately recognized Rebecca from her TedTalk, how could I say no to the leader of the movement? 

I thought to myself, what do I have to lose? Gun violence is a public health crisis, I had an idea about using safe storage, the lowest hanging fruit with most immediate impact as my “innovative” idea. Believe me, I had my doubts, but I also recognized that this was an opportunity to make a significant contribution to saving lives. So, I accepted the challenge of pitching my idea in 60 seconds flat. I had no idea that a group of compassionate and creative nurses would seek me out afterwards to create a team! 

Innovation is the moment between stagnation and progress. Nurse Hackathons create opportunities for nurses to solve major healthcare problems. That moment of the most discontent can be the genesis of change. This is the essence of Nurse Hackathons, giving space, time and support for transformation through innovation. 

We got to work immediately, what a team! The devotion to understanding the depth of the issue was only amplified as story after story of gun violence followed us throughout the weekend. The very evening, I pitched the idea, gun violence erupted at a football game in my own school district, Camden City. The next morning was news of a mass shooting in San Diego, that afternoon word came of a toddler shooting his father. The common thread was unsecured weapons getting into the hands of children and young people, which was the focus of our initiative – #LockItToStopIt

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, which has been carrying a heavy burden of trauma through a family history of gun violence victims and survivors. Thank you as a school nurse who works in a community ravaged by gun violence including the loss of students and family members of students. Thank you as a nurse activist who wonders if I am yelling into an echo-chamber. Thank you as a nurse blogger who writes as The Relentless School Nurse because being “Relentless” is the what is needed to address society’s most “wicked” problems.  Thank you, dear teammates, for standing shoulder to shoulder and making me feel like this burden is now shared among some of the most devoted and brilliant nurses I have had the pleasure to meet. 

With endless appreciation and deepest respect,


P.S. I will write more about our project in an upcoming blog



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