Small Grants, Big Impact

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Little ideas can have an outsized impact on patients’ lives. That’s the idea behind the Initiative for Humanizing Medicine’s (IHM) recently launched “micro-grant” program.

We put out a call for ideas aimed at humanizing the patient experience and we received close to 70 creative proposals from interdisciplinary clinical teams across The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Bayview Medical Center and Suburban Hospital,” says Martha Abshire Saylor, the Mary Ousley CIM Scholar and the first CIM nurse scholar. She is stewarding the effort together with Scott Wright, director of the Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence and holder of The Anne Gaines and G. Thomas Miller Professorship, and Mary Catherine Beach, co-leader of the Initiative for Humanizing Medicine. Both Wright and Beach are Mary Gallo CIM Scholars.

Ultimately, 14 projects were chosen for funding of up to $1,500 each. Among them:

Newborn News: The hours and days immediately after birth are particularly difficult for families of infants born with serious health conditions, who often face complicated surgeries with uncertain outcomes. With the “Newborn News” initiative, parents of babies in the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit (PCICU) will be offered professional quality photos of their infants soon after their birth.

“Capturing the newborn and their family during this time can provide positive memories to last a lifetime, versus waiting until the postoperative period,” notes Megan Gilmore-Hodnicki, a registered nurse in the PCICU, who plans to recruit other nurses and palliative care committee members to participate in photography training. Newborn News will also inform families of religious ceremonies/baptism opportunities at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and support early family visits for siblings and extended family members before the infant is moved for medical stabilization.

Cooking with Care: Led by nurse practitioner Maureen Flood, who works with heart failure patients, the project will pull together recipes for healthy, nutritious meals from internal medicine clinicians (doctors, nurses and other staff members) from Johns Hopkins Community Physicians at Bayview.

“This project has the potential for improving the experience of nearly all of our patients, but the patients who will benefit most are those who have chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes,” the team notes in their proposal. “Currently, our providers do what they can to offer dietary advice to patients, but it can be difficult to put those recommendations into practice for many folks, especially those with food insecurity, limited access to fresh produce, limited means or knowledge for cooking, and limited exposure to healthy meal options.”

Welcome to My World: The project is the brainchild of Gabriela Revesz, a registered nurse in the neurosciences critical care unit, whose team treats patients after they’ve experienced a stroke or other condition that impairs the patient’s ability to communicate.

With funds from the grant, the team will install white boards in the room of every patient on the unit that will display key pieces of personal information — photos, names of their pets and hobbies, things that comfort them, and cultural or religious beliefs.

Noting “the importance of ensuring that all team members have access to information about the patient as a human being in conversing with and caring for them,” Revesz adds, “it has been my experience that being able to communicate with patients on this human level at times de-escalates stressful situations that may otherwise end with the need for restraint and/or pharmacologic intervention.”

The micro-grants program was inspired by the earlier success of CIM’s “pyramid grants” program, launched in 2011, which Cynthia Rand — the Mary Gallo CIM Scholar (2022) and an active member of the Initiative for Humanizing Medicine — oversaw at Bayview.

“The idea is that it doesn’t take a lot of money to inspire people to brainstorm ideas that can really be beneficial for patients.” – Martha Abshire Saylor

“The idea is that it doesn’t take a lot of money to inspire people to brainstorm ideas that can really be beneficial for patients,” says Abshire Saylor. She says the funding committee was particularly pleased to see so much interest from nurses at Johns Hopkins. “Nurses don’t always have the experience with grant writing as physicians do, so we were intentional in creating an application that was accessible — and we made a push to communicate the opportunity to nurses in units across the divisions.”

Abshire Saylor and colleagues were also thrilled to receive applications from such a broad variety of care areas — inpatient, outpatient, pediatric, adult — and from a vast array of different departments.

The hope is that after getting their projects launched with the initial funding boost from the Initiative for Humanizing Medicine, teams will find ways to maintain their efforts through additional grants or by building their projects into departmental budgets.

And there is the potential for a ripple effect. “While we were only able to fund 14 projects, there were dozens of others that have great merit,” says Abshire Saylor. “Through collaborating to plan their proposals, we’re hopeful all teams will find creative ways to pursue them. Our goal is nothing less than to change the culture and humanize the patient experience across Johns Hopkins.”