Face of InnoVAtion is a regular series from the VHA Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) focusing on VA employees who are working to change and save Veteran lives through innovation. This month meet Ashley Crooks, Safe Patient Handling and mobility coordinator and Rehabilitation & Integrated Community Care safety officer at the St. Cloud VA Health Care System (HCS).
Ashley Crooks cares a lot about safety. Yes, as the Safe Patient Handling and mobility coordinator and the Rehabilitation & Integrated Community Care safety officer, it is literally in her job description to do so. But the RN is also passionate for other reasons, chief among them is the incredible Veterans she cares for and the dedicated staff at the St. Cloud VA HCS she has worked with for the past seven years. That’s why, after seeing Veterans and staff struggling with moving or transferring immobile Veterans from their beds, she knew she had to come up with a solution.
Teaming up with the Minneapolis VA HCS Minneapolis Adaptive Design and Engineering (MADE) Program, Crooks got to work developing a new lift system – called the Reverse Boom Patient Lift – that easily moved Veteran patients while keeping staff safe from potential long-term injuries related to manual patient handling. While lifts do already exist, they are often prohibitively expensive, cumbersome to use, and aren’t always able to fit closely into a bed for easy access. Crooks’ design has the ability to get into close proximity of the platform beds in which currently marketed powered lifts are unable, ultimately delivering a safer, easier method to lift patients. The ability to move into and out of bed is not just important to a Veteran’s physical health, but it also is helping inpatient Veterans access mental health care that otherwise would not be accessible.
“I really strive to find solutions to the problems that I encounter, and that is why I applied for the Innovators Network program. Keeping staff safe and Veterans safe during transfers is my number one goal,” said Crooks, who has a long history working in patient safety, starting from 16 when she began working in a nursing home as a certified nursing assistant. Throughout her 20 years of health care experience in nursing homes, home care, acute mental health and primary care, Crooks has always kept her eye on innovation.
Crooks is currently working on the design and prototyping of the lift with support now from the VHA Innovators Network Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment Program. Her innovation received a Spark investment, and she is receiving help in developing the new lift, including looking into developing a new partnership through the Greenhouse Initiative, and guidance on using human-centered design to tailor each product to the individual Veteran’s needs. The feedback has already been fantastic, with VA staff informing her that the innovative lift would have a major impact on the Veterans they care for.
“This experience working with VHA Innovators Network has been really rewarding. Seeing and hearing staff express how this piece of equipment would be beneficial with the population they are seeing is great news,” said Crooks.
Allison Amrhein is the director of operations for the VHA Innovators Network and communications lead for the VHA Innovation Ecosystem.