My Interview with Maria Menounos, the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge & The Importance of Nurses

My Interview with Maria Menounos, the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge & The Importance of Nurses

Alright, guys! Today’s blog post is a good one so keep reading! Last month I had the incredible opportunity to travel to NYC for the weekend to learn more about the amazing company Johnson & Johnson. It was truly a wonderful experience and such a fun trip all around, and there were so many big takeaways that I had from the trip. Johnson & Johnson has done so many amazing things as a company (like, did you know they were the ones behind developing sterile technique during hospital surgeries?! Crazy!), and are continuing to make such a big impact. I mean, they are launching clinical trials in the next year for an HIV vaccine–is that not incredible? While I’ll be sharing more with you guys on that, amongst other things through the year, in today’s post I really want to focus on their work with nurses, their Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge (where I got to interview Maria Menounos as she is partnering with them on this!), and the importance of nurses in general.

Okay, so I first want to talk with you guys about their Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge…so nurses especially, you’ll want to read this! So to first give you a little background, when I was in NYC I got to tour JLabs which is basically different lab spaces that Johnson & Johnson has where people have the opportunity to research their potential inventions and bring them to life. Here we got to meet one of the people who is helping create the HIV vaccine (still blown away by that!). But here’s where us nurses come into play. Johnson & Johnson just launched their Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge which is giving nurses an opportunity to submit their ideas for devices, health technologies, protocols or treatment approaches. So if you’ve ever had an idea on how you could improve the health care system, and nursing specifically–now is your chance! They are awarding up to a $100,000 grant, access to their JLabs ecosystem, PLUS mentoring and coaching for the nurses who submit the best ideas. For over 120 years they’ve supported nurses, (I mean, have you guys seen their commercials? I literally am on the verge of tears each time #guilty), and they are continuing to stand by those efforts. Whether you’re a nurse or not, this is an amazing cause that I’m pretty sure we can all get behind. You can read more about their challenge or submit your idea here. They are accepting ideas until February 2nd, 2019.

Okay, so let’s chat about when I got to sit down with Maria Menounos for a chat! And I know, crazy right? When Johnson & Johnson asked me if I was interested in chatting with her as she is partnering with them on the QuickFire challenge I was shocked! But of course was interested 🙂

I’m sure many of you remember this but in April 2017, Maria found out that she had a golfball-size brain tumor while she was simultaneously taking care of her mother who had been diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer. Fortunately for Maria, her tumor was found to be benign, but she still required major brain surgery. I literally cannot imagine going through that personally, especially while taking care of my mother with brain cancer as well. That is A LOT for one person to handle. But here’s the thing with Maria (something I think we could all learn from), she accepted this diagnosis as something to learn from, and use for the greater good. In my interview with her, we got to talk about how the diagnosis not only changed her life completely (for the better) but allowed her to share an important message with others as well. It was also during her stay in the hospital that she was heavily impacted by the nursing care she received. She speaks about how amazing, resourceful, and intelligent the nurses were that cared for her. And this is why she makes a perfect partner for Johnson and Johnson’s Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge. She has seen first hand not only the emotional impact that nurses have on patients like herself but also how big of a role they play in the healthcare system. Below is a recap of the topics we got to dive into during our conversation together.

– New York, NY – 10/02/2018 – Maria Menounos announces the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge, inviting the more than 3.2 million nurses located throughout the U.S. to submit ideas for new devices, health technologies, protocols or treatment approaches. The nursing innovators with the best ideas will receive up to $100,000 in grants and access to mentoring and coaching from Johnson & Johnson.

I asked Maria how she viewed her health prior to being diagnosed with the brain tumor; if it was something on her mind? She said growing up her Dad was a severe type 1 diabetic, so she was exposed to health issues but as she got older, she didn’t necessarily take that into account when health issues of her own would come up. She was a self-proclaimed workaholic and said she would easily dismiss things to keep working–she would ignore the signals her body was trying to give her because she was too busy, and had the notion that she needed to “power through.” Growing up she said that it was ingrained in her that hard work was respected, which contributed to her work ethic. But after her diagnosis, she realized that at the end of the day, NOTHING is worth it when your health is the expense. Now, she puts the breaks on the second something happens as her health is the #1 priority.

The sentiment that NOTHING is worth your health being compromised is something that we could all remember more. I think it’s easy to think we aren’t being deeply affected by our actions and just choose to power through. But after hearing Maria’s story, it is a great reminder of the implications when we choose to dismiss what our body is trying to tell us.

That being said, I also asked Maria what are some conversations she’s had with others that have encouraged them to put their health first? She told me that since her surgery, she has been speaking at tours around the country and has made a conscious effort to talk about wellness in every aspect. She says that health isn’t just about what you’re eating and the workouts you’re doing, it’s about focusing on everything–it’s your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. This is why she has a variety of professionals in the wellness space speak on her Sirius XM show. She’s had doctors, healers, and spiritual guides in order for people to realize how important it is to focus on all the areas that health entails. She stressed how important it is to have a well-rounded view of health, and to be constantly working on bettering yourself; because at the end of the day when you or someone you’re close with is hit with something, you have to be ready to handle it and face it head-on.

She also brought up the perspective of us as women constantly having to do everything, and be everything to everyone. I loved that she brought this up because it is so  true. As a woman, you are trying to balance a career, and you are expected to look perfect while doing it (hair, nails, outfits, etc). And then you are also expected to be an amazing mom, be at school meetings, plan family vacations, etc. And not to say that men aren’t involved in any of those things, but  as women, we carry a huge load. When we are in this mode, Maria says we are simply “human-doings.” She wants to encourage people (women especially) to focus less “doing” and more “being.” She also phrased it like this, as women we should maybe focus less on working to make enough money to buy the newest Chanel bag for IG, and instead put that money aside to invest in our health. #Amen to that! I just thought this was such an interesting perspective but I couldn’t agree more. We really are caught up in the “doing” versus the “living” and “being.” We need to be more present and focus on what is truly important.

One of the things that really resonated with me was how Maria was able to have such a positive outlook during her diagnosis. She told me that once she realized that “life is happening for  me, not to me” that she realized her diagnosis was actually a gift.  She came to the realization that God wanted her to slow down and make some major changes. It was that perspective and that mental shift that allowed her to go through a very difficult process. She knew it was happening for her, so she could not only find her way through it but to also help others with their journey. I think this is so  powerful, and really shows the power of perspective. When you’re able to reframe your mindset and find the deeper meaning behind the challenges you face, it allows you to approach them and move through them in a whole new light.

Lastly, I asked her about the QuickFire Nurses Innovate Challenge, and after her experience with her nurses, what is something she wishes the public knew about nurses? (Johnson & Johnson did a survey recently which revealed that the public has very limited knowledge about the actual role nurses play). She told me that when she looks back, she knows that her journey wouldn’t have been the same without the caring nurses she had. She recalls how seamless and wonderful they made the whole experience. They never made her feel bad about asking for help, which can be difficult when you’re so accustomed to being independent and when you’re now in a vulnerable position. She also said that she is excited for this challenge because she knows that it will help nurses develop their incredible ideas and that they will have the ability to bring their life-saving ideas to fruition. Maria recalling her experience, and initiatives like the QuickFire Nurses Innovate Challenge, help give the public a better understanding of what nurses are truly capable of and the important role they play.

As a Medical ICU nurse, every day I see the consequences of people who don’t take care of themselves. And sure, there are some people who are there despite anything in their control. Regardless though, it makes me incredibly appreciative of my health. I think it’s something that a lot of us take for granted until we don’t have it anymore. This is why I think messages like Maria’s are so important to grab hold of. Each day is a gift, and instead of worrying about the next designer bag we’re able to buy, there are a lot more important things to focus on. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be able to enjoy nice things, and we shouldn’t work hard but we also need to remember that there is more to life. Taking care of yourself, and living a healthy, happy and balanced life is much more valuable in the long run.

Nurse or not, do you guys have anything thoughts on the role of nurses, what Maria shared, or the QuickFire Nurses Innovate Challenge? Would love to hear them!



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