Robert Freeman, 30, a clinical nurse specialist for medical surgical quality at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, is used to going the extra mile. He was, after all, a Division 1 cross-country runner and track star prior to hanging up his shorts and spikes for scrubs and crocs.
So it didn’t come as a surprise to many that after being honored with the Mount Sinai’s “Novice Nurse of the Year Award” in 2011, the Excelsior College Master of Science in nursing graduate used the honor’s stipend to develop Nurse Net, one of the first educational resource apps designed specifically for the nursing community, and for a period, one of iTunes’ most popular health care apps.
Freeman isn’t ready to rest on his laurels, though. He already has his sights set his next entrepreneurial endeavor: Nursing Handoff, an app that was piloted at Mount Sinai Beth Israel as part of his capstone course at Excelsior.
This new app is designed to improve patient safety by assisting nurses with conveying critical patent information to one another during shift changes. It pulls medical records, highlights key points, and presents the content within the Situation Background Assessment Recommendations (SBAR) framework, an industry best practice for structuring information during the nursing shift transition period. Planning is underway to expand use of the app to additional hospitals within the Mount Sinai Health System.
Both ventures presented Freeman with the opportunity to give back to a profession he initially fell in love with after volunteering within a heart transplant unit at a local hospital while still an undergraduate at the University at Albany.
“I watched the nurses, seeing what they do, how they interacted with patients….and the impact that they had on people’s lives,” said Freeman.
During his senior year, he continued to juggle his studies and athletic commitments with his passion for nursing, accepting a position as a nursing assistant in the respiratory unit at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, New York. There he worked on a per diem basis whenever he could – summer vacation, nights, weekends, and holidays – to learn the nursing field from the ground up.
Freeman credits the hands-on experiences at St. Peter’s as invaluable to his growth within the profession and patient care.
“I developed a real respect for nurses…I understood firsthand how difficult of a job it is,” he says.
After graduating from nursing school in 2009, Freeman accepted a position at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. He was by no means slowing down with his educational pursuits, however.
“In health care and especially in nursing, anything at the leadership level requires a master’s (degree),” said Freeman. “Nurses are lifelong learners.”
However, between his nursing position and outside consulting work, he needed more flexibility than could be offered at a traditional program. So in 2011 Freeman enrolled in Excelsior’s Master of Science in nursing program. Yet, despite having no experience with distance learning or online classes, the transition was relatively seamless.
“The professors were excellent,” he said. “The material and content was directly applicable to what I did everyday (as a nurse).”
As for his advice to his nursing colleagues thinking about an advanced degree?
“Go for it,” says Freeman. “Education is so crucial in our profession. The skills that you’ll learn will translate to your professional practice and help you grow and become the leader you want to be.”