Contests tap student ideas for mental health, heart care

UND and NDSU students are applying their innovative approach to helping patients

Contests tap student ideas for mental health, heart care

Two Sanford Health clinical care workers placed well in recent idea challenges that tap the talent of college students.

Kenzie Ostlie is a patient care technician on the Innovation Unit at Sanford Medical Center Fargo. She’s pursuing a major in electrical engineering and a minor in biomedical engineering from North Dakota State University. Ostlie’s team took top honors in the undergraduate student category of the NDSU Innovation Challenge.

Kori Hennebry, a patient care technician for internal medicine in Fargo, attends the University of North Dakota for public health. Her project won the NiceX: Rural Health idea challenge sponsored by The Nice Center at NDSU and Sanford Health. She placed second in the NDSU Innovation Challenge.

Mental health first aid

Hennebry’s proposal is to incorporate mental health first aid training in classes that expectant parents take to prepare for the birth of their baby.

“My idea would be to put it into the Lamaze class because as they’re learning to take care of their baby, what to do in parenting classes like that. They’ll learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and physical health for their baby. But mental health is not necessarily put into that. So knowing how to take care of mental health when kids grow up is important,” she said.

Hennebry said that had she learned how to spot the signs of mental health issues earlier, she might have been able to help a family member who struggles with them.

“Even just having a foundational knowledge of what a mental health issue looks like can really help them be able to get them the help they need,” she said.

Hennebry hopes to be able to test the concept in a real birthing class.

Engineering in health care

Ostlie’s idea for her project came from an NDSU engineering class. “We were tasked with coming up with some innovation that would better society in terms of cardiovascular engineering systems,” she said.

She and her team created a biosensor designed to identify exacerbation of congenital heart failure in patients who had been previously diagnosed. They’re in the process of building a prototype.

Ostlie said her logistical and problem-solving training as an engineer prepares her well to solve health care challenges.

“We take a problem, we look at it, we analyze it, we look at all the factors contributing to that problem and we take that information and we try to find a solution using that logistical, critical thinking. It translates nicely to the diagnostics side of medicine,” she said.

Which is why Ostlie enjoys working on the innovation unit.

“It gives me an opportunity to tie my education back to my work too,” she said. “It’s really cool what we’re able to do on the unit here in terms of bettering health care and making the patient care experience better for both our staff and patients.”

Continuous improvement

Like Ostlie, Merideth Bell also was trained as an engineer and now works in health care as the project manager for the innovation unit. A mindset of continual improvement serves people well in the profession because health care is constantly evolving, she said.

“I wish there had been opportunities like this when I attended NDSU. I’m so impressed with these two ladies and all of the others that participated in the innovation events hosted by NDSU. They seized the opportunity to blend coursework learnings with their work and used real-life situations to drive their innovation work. It was so fun to watch the students pitch their ideas – you could see the fire inside of them and hear the passion in their voices as they presented,” Bell said.

“I think it’s awesome that Sanford Health encourages staff to take the initiative to share their ideas and we can we be agile enough to listen and accommodate those ideas if they make sense for the organization. Our staff and our patients are also benefiting.”

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Posted In Awards & Recognition, Behavioral Health, Heart, Innovations, Parenting, Sanford Stories, Undergrad College Resources