With Ted Jeanloz
Nurse staffing and burnout issues existed long before the pandemic, but they’ve taken center stage as nursing becomes more challenging as a profession.
In this Digital Health Wire Q&A, we sat down with connectRN CEO Ted Jeanloz to discuss technology’s role in solving these problems and the new ways that human-centered design can help support healthcare staff.
Let’s kick things off with some background. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and connectRN’s overall strategy?
Since our early days in 2018, our hypothesis has been that nurses were being squeezed out of the profession because of the rigidity of their schedules. They might be going back to school and need to make time for exams, or they might have a child and need more time for them. What they all have in common is that they need schedules built around their lives, not around work.
We initially thought maybe 10% of nurses would fall in that category of really wanting more flexibility. And with 6.5 million nurses and CNAs in the country, 10% of those would be a solid total addressable market.
We quickly learned that our assumption that only 10% of nurses want flexibility was way off base. It turns out that 100% of nurses want flexibility. Back in 2019 we just weren’t programmed to realize it was possible, but the pandemic helped show us that flexibility and productivity aren’t mutually exclusive.
That’s at the core of what drives connectRN.
Can you share more about the platform? What are some of the ways that you create this flexibility?
As far as creating flexibility, there’s a bedside component and a virtual component. As far as in-person care we bring flexibility to that part of the equation by first and foremost giving nurses the ability to choose their shifts – timing, care setting, and anything in between.
They can also use the social component of our platform to elect to work with friends. They can say “these are the people I like working with,” coordinate with them on the details, then make the shift happen. That’s been working really well for a lot of our nurses.
We’re also moving towards a world where more care is delivered outside of facilities through things like RPM or telephone triage. If a nurse doesn’t have time for a full shift on Saturday, now they can do a home health visit for someone in their community. We have nurses licensed in all 50 states, so we’ll effectively be able to create an environment where nurses can contribute wherever the system needs them.
It seems like the platform is designed around the nurses in many ways outside of shift matching. Can you talk us through some of that?
One of the key ways that we’re focused on building around the nurses themselves is by facilitating their education. We have a ton of data coming in from both the supply side with the nurses and the demand side with the facilities. This gives us a lot of visibility into what the market is calling for and where there’s a gap.
That allows us to cross-check the skills that are needed with what’s in short supply, then give our nurses a list of next-step credentials that might immediately help their career. If a nurse has a certain set of shifts available to them based on their current qualifications, we can show them exactly how much their opportunity set would expand if they added what’s often a single certification.
By helping nurses get a little bit of training, we can hopefully increase their value in the market, increase the talent pool for providers, and if we can get all that aligned then it’ll move us to a place where nurses are truly better off.
Burnout is one of the bigger themes we cover, and adding more flexibility to the system probably helps with that. What are your views on if there’s a long term solution?
One of the problems with burnout is that there was this big pandemic shock, and it shocked us into a spiral that’s going to be really hard to get out of. It led to short staffing and a lot of nurses getting burnt out, so they ended up leaving, so there’s even fewer people, which creates more burnout and a pretty brutal cycle.
Our perspective is that giving nurses more options for how they work is a way that we can really help. Almost every nurse we talk to, when you ask them why they chose nursing, they all love their job. They all love patient care. It’s universal, but many of them say, “I love it, but I just can’t do it anymore.”
If there’s a long term solution, part of it is creating a way to keep them contributing but at a different scale. If we can let them pick their hours, pick their facilities, and pick how much they work, then they’re going to be happier when they’re there and be able to deliver better care.
That seems like a better mental health place for everybody and I think we can get there.
If you look back on connectRN’s growth, was there a secret sauce that you could share with other founders?
I really think it’s the team that we put together. Phenomenal companies are built by teams of phenomenally hardworking, phenomenally smart people.
To have a successful startup, I think the first thing you need is a great problem to solve. Once you have that, you need to put together a great team to go after it. The third thing that helps is great investors, and we’ve had the support of really world class investors that have been there for us all along the way.
If you have those three things I think you can consistently succeed as a startup, but if we’re being 100% honest there’s also an element of luck. You absolutely make your own luck in some cases, but having the right solution at the right time is important.
For connectRN, the key has been to keep the flexibility and the nurses at the center of everything we do. We’re not optimizing for a full time schedule, we’re optimizing to help nurses build their careers.
For more on connectRN’s platform, head over to their website.