This Newcastle-based Nurse Designed an App to Make Surgery Smoother

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It's been a long time in the making.

As a busy scrub nurse, Beth Wozniak had been working in a private hospital for four years when she began to wonder if there was a smarter way of doing things. “I was working in a hospital in Newcastle and was astonished at the inefficient way items were gathered for surgery,” she says. “The lightbulb moment came when I was scrubbing for a surgeon I hadn’t worked with before who, in the middle of surgery, expressed how upset she was about consistently not having the right tools to safely complete her job. It was at this moment that I knew I had to fix the root of the problem, and find a solution that ensures a smoother surgery set-up process.”

The solution became Scrubit – an app developed by Beth, along with her two cofounders, Lloyd Davies, a software designer, and a technical expert he recruited, Paul Fisher. The app assists operating theatre staff to collect the items and instruments that are required by a doctor to perform surgical operations, by allowing them to search for each item using a unique reference number, which then shows the item’s photo and its location.

Anyone, including nursing staff in theatre, can see the status of every setup as they are updated. To monetise the app, each theatre pays a fee per month, which means unlimited users can log in.

The innovative idea has been a long time in the making.

Scrubit

“It’s been a fairly long process developing the app,” admits Beth. “The concept was thought of and discussed with software designer Lloyd Davies many years ago, but its active development phase took around 12 months from start to finish.”

Then it was a matter of getting the buy-in of hospital bosses. The first operating theatre to trial the app was Maitland Private Hospital in New South Wales, where Beth was, at the time, working in the operating theatres as a scrub nurse. “Being ‘on-site’ during implementation made the process much easier,” she says. “We found hospital management were keen when they could clearly see the benefits of cost and time savings, data analytics, patient safety and staff benefits.”

Since then, additional Australian hospitals have joined the program allowing Beth to work on Scrubit full-time. They’ve also been contacted by hospitals overseas interested in signing up to the initiative. “The implementation process has been smooth as we’ve been thinking about the concept for so many years,” she says. “We made sure we worked closely with the people who would be using the app to ensure it was fit-for-purpose.”

Beth Wozniak of Scrubit

Founder Beth Wozniak; photograph by Matilda Ferguson

It’s a powerful example of ‘intrapreneurship’ – someone working within a large organisation who saw a sticking point and took the initiative to find a way to solve it. “It’s important for employees to realise they can make a difference, even to big established industries,” says Beth. “Staff working at the coal face are the ones who can most often identify where processes need to be improved. Employees should realise it is they who can really make huge advances to their workplaces and to entire industries.”

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