How does a techno-phobic nurse become a hacking aficionado?

From a series on researchers and innovators at Boston Children’s Hospital

McCabe and the  Hacking Pediatrics team
McCabe (far right) and the Hacking Pediatrics team

Margaret McCabe, PhD, director for nursing research in the medicine patient services at Boston Children’s Hospital, is an unlikely hacker. A former techno-phobe and chronically fatigued mother of four, McCabe didn’t think she had time for another project.

Some opportunities, however, are too good to resist. That was the case when McCabe, who thrives on interacting with people who think outside of the box, started brainstorming with colleagues about Hacking Pediatrics.

She signed as a co-founder of the group, an organization of self-described geeks from Boston Children’s and MIT’s H@cking Medicine committed to hacking the status quo in pediatric health care. “It’s the attraction to innovation,” she confesses.

McCabe describes the lure of hacking and the role of nurses in innovation.

What is Hacking Pediatrics? How can it help patients?

Hacking Pediatrics offers people with innovative solutions to pain points in pediatric health care an opportunity to grow their ideas. We support educational workshops and local meet ups as well as an annual hackathon.

Ideas and projects that come out of our annual hackathon have the opportunity to impact our patients and their care in varied ways. We’ve seen allergy-friendly recipes become easy to access, device prototypes be created, apps be developed. Hackathons are infused with commitment and incredible innovation. It’s powerful to experience the process and witness the outcomes!

How was Hacking Pediatrics born?

A diverse group of people who were passionate about innovation somehow found each other … we saw an opportunity to bring people from different backgrounds, from inside and outside of health care, together to work on innovative solutions to health care problems facing children and their families.

Initially, we were connecting people around town; our most recent hackathon attracted people from across the country!

Should nurses get involved in hacking?

Absolutely. Nurses are natural makers and hackers. We are always finding solutions or figuring out how to make things work in day-to-day patient care.

You brought your 9-year-old daughter to the hackathon. What was that like?

She had so much fun, she stayed for 12 hours. I’m sure part of it was the high-energy environment. She saw 3D printing firsthand, built with little bits and Legos, was a model for one of the teams and made new friends! She had so much fun she can’t wait for next year!

Introducing children to hacking and innovation is an emerging benefit of Hacking Pediatrics.

What innovation could you not live without?

My smart phone, it keeps me connected to my family!

What makes you smile?

When my children and students ask good questions—especially when there are more questions than answers!