Winners Bernadette Higgins and Anne Murray
Two nurses at the Department of Public Health Mid-West have received a top award in recognition of their innovative idea to collect urine samples in a cleaner way in order to improve diagnosis rates of infections, with the aid of a special app.
Public Health Mid-West’s Assistant Director of Nursing (ADON) Bernadette Higgins, and Clinical Nurse Manager 2 (CNM2) in Health Protection, Anne Murray, won the National Spark Ignite award and €3,000 seed funding for their ‘Wee Catch It’ innovation idea, at the annual Spark Innovation Programme conference in Dublin recently.
Collecting a clean, accurate midstream urine in babies, children and adults with incontinence in an efficient and hygienic way is challenging, this can lead to contamination of samples and often results in unnecessary antibiotic prescribing and costly unplanned hospital admissions. Necessity being the mother of invention, Bernadette came up with a solution to improve the ‘clean catch’ urine samples.
‘Wee Catch It’ is currently in prototype development phase, and the nurses will now work towards developing the unique product and software for national and international use.
Speaking after their success joint winner Bernadette Higgins said that she was delighted with the recognition and was looking forward to taking the idea to the next stage:
“Being shortlisted and winning the Spark Ignite Award is an honour considering the exceptional standards of all of the other entrants. Winning this prestigious award in such a high calibre competition has given the validation to believe in the innovation med tech device ‘Wee Catch it’ and drive it forward.
“We are an example of how passionate, creative nurses are in an ideal position to invent and develop ideas as we spend more time with patients. Nurses have a wealth of knowledge of how products work and can make patients’ and healthcare workers’ lives better. The ability for a nurse to innovate is defined by a desire to improve some of the most vital solutions in healthcare. While it’s easy to recognise pain points in our working environment, figuring out what to do next can feel overwhelming. However, having completed a MSc module ‘Idea and Representation’ from the MSc in Design for Health and Wellbeing, at University of Limerick, combined with the Spark Ignite programme, these opportunities offer the support needed to all frontline staff to develop their ideas from a spark to their fruition. Innovation in healthcare is essential to continuously improving the HSE service provision.”
Fellow winner and innovator Anne Murray added:
“Nurses have always been unintentional innovators. Improvising, moulding and tweaking what was available to us. They bring true meaning to the phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ in their efforts to optimise the care they give. In recent years, healthcare recognises the enormous value of fostering creativity and innovation in health care workers. We are so incredibly honoured and humbled to have been chosen from such an incredible group of passionate SPARK finalises, all of whom had amazing innovations. Without the HSE’s Spark programme, our innovation would still be just an idea.
“As a parent, I know the distress of trying to get a urine sample from a baby. As nurses, our patients are the centre of all we do. We want to be able to deliver the best patient experience we can in an effective, efficient, simple, comfortable, safe and cost effective way. ‘Wee Catch It’ does all this. The idea is that it will improve the process for the healthcare worker, provide education, promote appropriate and timely treatment and reduce the risk of harm to the patient and the wider population.”
Dr Mai Mannix, Area Director of Public Health Mid-West, added: “We are incredibly proud of Bernadette and Anne for this great achievement. Not just brilliant innovators, they are also natural leaders, leading a totally new nursing speciality in Ireland, Health Protection nursing working in Public Health. Alongside their colleagues in the department, they have played a key role in saving many lives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and I know they will continue to do so through dedication to protecting the Mid-West community. I would like to wish them the very best of luck in the success of their unique idea.”