Act II and III
April 24, 2018
A second act in life, or even a third, is reserved for middle-aged or older adults. Right? These are the people who, at a certain age, assess their lives and decide it’s time to reinvent themselves, their careers or lives after retirement—folks who possibly had an experience that opened their eyes to a passion they never knew existed.
Latesha Powell is not middle-aged. She wasn’t in need of reinvention—she had recently earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a plan to work for the New Jersey Department of Children and Family—she was just starting out. What she had was an experience, right before she graduated from Rutgers University, which changed the path her life would take. “Right before I finished college, I lost my father. His nurses made a lasting impression on me,” Powell shared. She talked about it being more than the knowledge they had about what was going on with her dad. “It was also their bedside manner. They knew exactly what to say to me and my siblings and how to approach the situation, especially after he passed.” The comfort they gave her family combined with their vast clinical knowledge made a significant impact. It seemed that his nurses had a certain intuition about how to help the family process all that was happening. “It really touched me,” she said.
After Powell graduated, she volunteered at Cooper University Hospital to better understand nurses’ roles—what the job really entailed. It didn’t take her long to decide nursing was the future she wanted to pursue. It wouldn’t be quick nor would it be easy to get there. She first had to return to the classroom, one at a community college, to take the prerequisites for an accelerated BSN program. Having her heart set on Drexel’s accelerated career entry (ACE) program, she applied but wasn’t admitted. She’s a determined woman, so she took more classes and the second time she applied, she was accepted and immediately moved to Philadelphia. Powell couldn’t wait to start this chapter of her life.
ACE students often use the same words to describe Drexel’s program—daunting, intense and challenging. The bar is set really high. Students rise to the challenge or they don’t. Powell said the same thing. “The first couple of weeks were intimidating. It took some time to get adjusted to the pace, but I soldiered on once I caught my momentum,” she remarked. She noted two things that really helped her hold on: new friendships and developing coping mechanisms. Students are bound to cultivate strong bonds over their mutual challenges. It’s probably the feeling of everyone being in the same boat—they all seem to encourage each other to row in the same direction. She felt her friends, clinical nurses and staff made her want to grow and hunger for knowledge. “I felt inspired by everyone. It made me feel like ‘I can do this’ and ‘I’m so glad I’m here.’ I thought this would change my life,” Powell explained. And it did. She finished the program on time, 11 months, and became a member of Nu Eta, the Drexel chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing in the process.
Finding inspiration is all well and good, but the velocity of the program is bound to cause a great deal of stress, not unlike what nurses may feel in the workplace. Of all the coping skills Powell could have developed, she chose meditation. “Midterms were coming up and I had clinical that day. I remember distinctly thinking I had to come back from clinical and would need to study,” she said. “I had so much to do, I just had to take a pause,” Powell added. That pause was something she found through guided meditation. She was introduced to and encouraged to use something she found on Blackboard. It was an app called Calm. Calm is best known as a meditation, sleep and mental wellness. The benefit of mindfulness meditation is that it creates a space in which to breathe and to calm the mind. In allowing herself to take a pause, to relax, to meditate Powell found the time to just take a deep breath. It’s a practice that helped her become a nurse and it is something she continues to practice today.
Powell was barely into this “second act” when the third one starting forming. “During a clinical I observed my instructor drawing up medication into a syringe then flicking it to move the air bubbles to the top. She mentioned how uncomfortable doing that was,” she said. “The instructor said ‘actually I have a dent in my fingernail from doing this for years’ and it stuck in the back of my mind.” A few years later, Powell was faced with some similar discomfort. She was working at Kennedy Health System (now Jefferson Health) during a winter when a high frequency of broken bones necessitated the need to draw up a lot of morphine. She was flicking syringes and pushing IV meds all day and her finger really began to hurt. “Just as I thought ‘this is really painful’ I recalled what my instructor said and knew there had to be a way to fix this. I was terribly uncomfortable and I didn’t want to fatigue from flicking syringes all day.” Powell started experimenting thinking some kind of cushion could help prevent nerve damage or inflammation. The process in finding a solution would end with an invention for which she holds a patent. Powell invented a glove with a cushion as part of the design alleviating the need to wrap pads or band aids around fingers called “Padded Medical Procedure Glove and Finger Cot.” “If it’s part of the glove when I put it on, I can protect my finger and give better patient care,” she asserted.
She admitted she never considered herself an entrepreneur, inventor or a businesswoman. “I never felt inspired to pursue business, but I had this idea that would really help people everywhere give better patient care with just a little protection,” she offered. In her line of work, she said the little things are what really help you get through your day. She has renderings of the invention and is working to find a manufacturer so she can make a proper prototype. Her hope is to license the intellectual property, but more than that, she wants to save the flicking finger of all syringe-wielding personnel worldwide.
Powell may have thought by spending the most transformative year of her life in the ACE program becoming a nurse, she could honor the men and women who showed her father and family such compassion during such a hard time in their lives. But her invention may far better serve as a gesture of gratitude for all nurses who do so much in service of others.
Things I would like to recommend:
Are you binge-watching anything on TV or do you have a favorite movie?
The Profit is a reality show. Marcus Lemonis, owner of a multi-billion company, offers resources to struggling small businesses in exchange for an ownership stake in the company. “I began watching it when I started thinking about my glove and how to go about patenting it and licensing it,” Powell confessed. “I learned a lot and it really got me motivated to try and make it happen.”
Powell watched Jennifer Lawrence’s Joy for obvious reasons—having a hard time launching a new invention and being discouraged by not having capital to get manufacturers to pay attention. “I get a lot of automated emails saying, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ So I'm having a hard time getting in front of people who can actually make decisions.” She just has to find the money to make a prototype.
If you would like to get in touch with Powell, she's happy to hear from you via email.