Alumna Stephanie Pitts was recently honored by the Association of Vascular Access for her work to advance vascular access and by B. Braun Medical with the 2023 Vision Award

“Pace yourself with the organization.” 

That was the recommendation given to Stephanie Pitts years ago as a new nurse leader. 

“I knew that would never be me. I recognize that advancing an organization does require the people and the system to move with you,” said Dr. Pitts, a 2021 graduate of MGH Institute’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program. “I also realized that my vision was often ten steps ahead.  It was at that moment I knew I was an innovator,”

For the past 25 years, sticking her tiny patients with needles at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital was a crucial part of Pitts’ job. Placing a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC), a small IV that goes into a large blood vessel near the heart, was a daunting task, especially for the smallest patients. She knew there had to be better tools to get the job done; however, there weren’t. 

This experience motivated Pitts to share her ideas with a medical device company, and together they developed new tools that would make placing a PICC in the smallest patients much easier. 

“Today, these globally available medical devices are making it safer for nurses to access blood vessels on the most difficult patients,” said Pitts, DNP, RN, CPN, VA-BC, NEA-BC. “This was a springboard for my interest in the medical device technology space.”

Pitts is the Director of Healthcare Strategy & Innovation for B. Braun Medical Inc. (USA). She works with a multi-disciplinary team including engineers, marketers, economists, and other healthcare providers to identify new innovations for the future of healthcare.

“Our purpose at B. Braun is to help providers constantly improve patient outcomes with innovative products and services created to help healthcare professionals focus on what matters most – patients,” Pitts said.

A focus on healthcare inequality

Throughout her experience at the MGH Institute’s DNP program, health equity was an integral topic. 

“I learned so much about the inequities in healthcare, especially for our patients with dark skin tones and those in underserved communities,” recalled Pitts.  

It was during her time in the DNP program that she became curious if patients with darker skin tones experience more needle sticks as compared to those with lighter skin.  The topic has not been well studied, even after looking back in the literature over 20 years. This inspired her.

“We owe it to our patients to do better,” said Pitts.

The Association for Vascular Access (AVA) recently honored Dr. Pitts with the Suzanne Herbst Award, the highest honor the organization bestows. Herbst, a pioneer in vascular access, presented the award. “It was really special to be handed the award from Ms. Herbst,” recalls Pitts, who then presented a keynote to the organization. “I reflected a lot about how I wanted to use the platform to have an impactful and bold message.”

Her message? Nothing less than transforming the next decade in vascular access care.

In laying out the framework to make this transformation, Pitts identified the need for healthcare providers to focus on health equity in vascular access. This topic had never been discussed in a session at the AVA conference. Based on the limited research that is available, Pitts described how patients with darker skin tones are stuck more and suffering more as a result. She also explained how this can result in delays in diagnostics and treatment, as well as longer times patients spend in hospital beds.

Identifying inequities in care delivery to this organization has catapulted many of the members into action. Seeking to better understand the problem, a group of nurse researchers have formed with a mission to understand the perceptions of patients and healthcare providers related to IV access; specifically, as it relates to race and skin color. 

Pitts’ work to transform healthcare and address longstanding inequities in the healthcare system was also recognized by B. Braun with the 2023 Vision Award.

“Innovation isn’t always making a new medical device.  Innovation is changing how we have always done things - thought about things - and reimagining how they could be done,” said Pitts.  “Being nurse innovators requires us to identify a need and fearlessly drive the change.

“My time spent in the Institute’s DNP program helped me view healthcare from a unique lens,” she added. “It strengthened my confidence and knowledge as a nurse leader and innovator and motivated me to help transform the next decade of healthcare.”

Carolyn Barrett contributed to this story

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