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Self-Care Leads to Nurse Innovation

When alumna Amy Felix burned out at work, she stepped away and found space to ideate and innovate.

Managing a team of nurse practitioners and physician assistants at a major Philadelphia hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic is a sure path- way to stress—but for Amy Felix MSN RN CPNP Nu’04 GNu’08, it also led to inspiration.

Felix and Raj S. Iyer MBBS MD MS, a Pediatric Anesthesiologist, co-founded TrackCE, a digital wallet for nurses and doctors, created to alleviate the stress and worry associated with license re- newal and to simplify the process. This personalized mobile application allows health care providers to track their continuing education credits by state, role, and specialty. The interface supports real time progress tracking of credits, notification of upcoming deadlines, and the ability to generate reports.

“I have three Nurse Practitioner li- censes and four certifications,” Felix says. “A few years ago when I was working on renewing one of my NP licenses, I realized how challenging it is to keep track of continuing education credits and the deadlines for licenses and certification.
My fellow nurse practitioners always seemed so tense around license renewal season. Similarly, Dr. Iyer experienced the same challenges with multiple state licenses and certifications.”

TrackCE was recently selected for funding as part of the 2022 American Nurses Association NursePitchTM Competition, an event that featured nurses with innovative health care solu- tions. Out of 85 applicants, Felix’s and Iyer’s app was part of the top eight to make it to the finals—and one of four projects to receive funding.

Felix continues, “Our goal is to revolutionize the process for license renewal so that nurses and doctors can worry less and focus on patient care and themselves. Less burden should support less burnout.”

While Felix’s work on TrackCE is aimed at addressing health care provider burnout, she took a critical step in her career to manage her own stress in a dif- ferent way—and give herself more time to explore health care technologies: she opted to take a sabbatical. She resigned from her management position with the intention of taking a three-month break to rest and reinvigorate her passion for nursing—and she started a blog at thenursesabbatical.com to inspire other nurses to consider a sabbatical, too.

“Our goal is to revolutionize the process for license renewal so that nurses and doctors can worry less and focus on patient care and themselves.”

She says, “Sabbaticals are common in academia; even physicians can take sabbaticals once affiliated with an academic institution. Sabbaticals can be used for research, rest, or learning something new. This is exactly what I wanted to do. Hence, the idea of The Nurse Sabbatical was born.”

Felix’s success in the nurse wellbeing space and with TrackCE inspired her to take an additional three months of sabbatical before returning to a more traditional nursing role—something she looks forward to, thanks to her time away from the bedside to recharge.

Burnout rates are high among nurses. A 2022 survey by staffing firm Incredible Health indicates that a full one-third of nurses may leave their roles by the end of the year; 44 percent say burnout and a high-stress environment are the reason. A nurse sabbatical program may be one option to combat this potential crisis, Felix says. “It would allow nurses to take a break, with the opportunity to self-reflect, and explore options for their nursing career. If a nurse sabbatical program was offered by hospitals, it would be a useful strategy for recognition and retention as nurses could be given clinical time off to work on projects or initiatives that would help the hospital.”

It could also lead to other nursing innovations, such as TrackCE. “My well-being work propelled my work in the Nurse Sabbatical,” Felix adds. “But wellbeing is not an individual respon- sibility. Organizations can change sys- tems to promote more wellbeing at work through changes in EMR systems, creat- ing psychological safety, and promoting wellbeing practices. This work showed me that we could decrease burnout if we re-examine our current practices.”

Felix credits her time at Penn Nursing with helping her to think creatively—not just about providing health care and innovating, but about her career and sabbatical. She says, “When you learn in such a dynamic environment with scholars from across the world sharing their expertise, you dream big about the possibilities of your nursing career. Penn Nursing taught me that I could do anything! Even now, on sabbatical, I remain excited for what my future holds as a nurse and an entrepreneur.”

The TrackCE app is currently avail- able in the Apple Store for free.