Loma Linda University Health is celebrating Nurses Week May 6 through 12. The 2018 celebration appropriately focuses on how nurses inspire, innovate and influence. Erin Hoch, a current Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse at Loma Linda University Children's Hospital (LLUCH), is one example of these qualities — especially innovation.

Hoch got her start in nursing at LLUCH more than 12 years ago, when she was hired into the nursing residency program. She now has experience in the Pediatric Intermediate ICU, nursing research and the NICU.

Last September, Hoch said she found herself thinking about the feeding process and how it could be more efficient, less wasteful and better for the bonding process. “The tiniest of our patients at LLUCH need a specific amount of milk each feeding. But often, the babies aren’t ready to take an entire bottle. They tire out and need enteral feedings to get the milk they need,” Hoch said.

At that point, Hoch explains that the nurse has to take a syringe, draw out the leftover milk from the bottle, and hook up the syringe to a machine which pumps the milk into the child’s nasogastric tube.

The process is time-consuming and costly, because each feeding requires not just the bottle with a nipple — but the syringe and tubing as well. In addition, the process can waste precious milk that the baby’s mother has pumped.

“I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a more efficient way to provide these feedings, and after some sleepless nights at home, I came up with an idea,” Hoch said.

Hoch’s new process will allow bottles to be converted to a container that delivers the food to the NG tube. It will not only save costs, but it will allow a parent who is feeding their baby uninterrupted bonding time. With this new invention, the feeder will be able to change the nipple out and attach it to the NG, allowing a gravity-fed system of feeding.

Her manager encouraged her to talk to LLUH’s n³eight department — an innovative center designed to take research breakthroughs from Loma Linda University Health to the patient bedside. Erik Gosink, manager of Technology Transfer at the center, worked with Hoch to help her obtain a patent lawyer. A prototype was built, and the idea was shared with a manufacturer who will be making a decision in the next few weeks.  

Hoch, just one of the many innovative LLUCH nurses, encourages her colleagues on a daily basis, “If you have a thought, don’t just leave it as a thought. Do something about it.”