Reducing Patient and Nurse Injuries with Charleen Solomon of AriseQ2
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Did you know nurses are required to turn and change bed-bound patients every two hours? The primary reason for this protocol is to help patients avoid pressure ulcers. At first glance, that seems like a straightforward and quick task. But it's actually quite a challenge, especially when nurses are short-handed. The traditional approach of turning patients is time consuming and prone to injuring nurses.
The problem has serious financial healthcare costs as well with $250 billion spent each year on nursing injuries and pressure ulcers.
Charleen Solomon, a nurse herself, thought of a solution one day when her sweater got caught in the door of her car. Her back was aching from turning a hospice patient that day and her 2nd shift was about to start when she had a lightning moment of inspiration to what would lead to her Q2 Solution.
Charleen shares her journey from prototyping with fellow nurses, selling her house to have capital, seeking investment (and being rejected 200 times), to finding the right manufacturer, to a very successful product today with contracts with some of the biggest in healthcare.
She knew the product worked from first-hand experience. Her tenacity, purpose, and gratitude are inspiring for any entrepreneur starting their own life science company.
Robert Fenton: [00:00:20] Charlene Solomon is the founder and inventor of Arise Q2 and the Q2 solution. She's been in the healthcare industry for over 20 years and has a firsthand understanding of the need for a new patient friendly and caregiver friendly healthcare product. Having trained as a nurse and with a marketing and sales background, Charlene has brought the two other successful patented products from scratch to the market.
She also has sold two additional patents in her career. Charlene's broad base experience includes overseeing many aspects of running a business for managing over 300 employees to directing all major departments, such as sales, marketing, human resources, and business development. As you were probably aware, it is extremely difficult for caregivers to adhere to the Q2 protocol, which is a protocol designed around turning patients every two hours in healthcare settings to prevent pressure ulcers and change things like incontinent pads. And this is difficult because of time of staff limitations.
Charlene's Q2 solution, not only saved time, but made the caregiver's job much, much easier. We love talking to the courageous people on the front lines of healthcare today, and we were delighted to have Charlene share her experience with us.
Let's bring her in.
I'm really excited to learn about your background and your journey because helping demystify a path around building, launching and scaling companies in healthcare, particularly those that save and extend lives is something that I'm a personal advocate for. So thank you for sharing that story as well.
Charleen Solomon: [00:01:47] I'm so honored to be able to do this because, um, thank you for bringing light to this because being a little guy growing into a big guy is hard.
It's really hard. And people think, Oh, I'm just going to start my own business and I'm just going to do it on my own. And I don't like the way my boss is working. So I'm going to start out and do it myself and yeah. Holy smokes. It's hard. So you have to have the passion to follow it all the way through.
You know, if you don't have that passion and if you can't live on top ramen noodles for at least two to three years, you can forget it.
Robert Fenton: [00:02:35] Yeah. Ramen noodles, weren't quite to thing in Ireland when I was starting Qualio, uh, but I think I understand your sentiment.
I'll listen, I'll never say no to a good potato and many and any of its very delicious forms. So before we kick into your story and that journey, Charleen, can you tell us a little bit about how you're helping like nurses, caregivers, and patients at AriseQ2.
Charleen Solomon: [00:03:02] What we have created is, with the Q2 is 75 to 80,000 nurses are permanently injured, turning and changing patients. And this is yearly and I need to help stop that as a hospice nurse myself. It was just so difficult. You're so exhausted. You're so tired. And I thought there has to be a better way to do this. And so how I wanted to help my peers was to make their job easier.
And so that's why I invented the Q2 because the Q2 actually. Takes the weight of the patient completely off of the nurse. And it, it literally takes half the time to turn and change a patient, than it does with a regular chucks. And so I'm giving them back not only their time, but also their health.
Robert Fenton: [00:04:04] Yeah. And maybe for people who don't know, I mean, turning patients that people might think, well, why do we have to turn people quite so often? And it's every couple of hours, right.
Charleen Solomon: [00:04:14] Yes it's every two hours with a bed-bound patient or a patient that just gets out of surgery. They have to be turned every two hours because of the, the skin will pool and the blood will coagulate in one specific spot and the skin will break down. And what happens is, is it starts to form what's called a pressure ulcer or a bedsore, and that starts to form within two hours. So if that body part isn't moved, then that bed source starts to break down the skin. And what happens is, is because there's not enough nurses to turn the patients, bedsores are just prevalent. And we have over 70,000 people a year die of pressure ulcers because they go sepsis.
Robert Fenton: [00:05:05] This is like an epidemic people don't ever really talk about. And what I've learned just it's often the simple things are what appear like simple things. That's where a lot of the pain is and where a lot of improvement can be made. Right.
Charleen Solomon: [00:05:18] Absolutely. And that is part of, that's part of the problem is just even talking about it. You know, I call it the dirty little secret in hospitals is the pressure ulcers. And the second thing is nursing injuries.
And so, yeah. If you can't talk about it, that's probably one of the most difficult things. In the beginning, when I started this six years ago, it's gotten so much better now. So much light is being, made now for, nurses, nursing injuries and patient pressure ulcers that were starting to form actual groups of, um, of, um, nurses that are gathering together, going, this has to get better.
It has to get better.
Robert Fenton: [00:06:04] And how does the Q2 solution work? I'm curious because I'm trying to imagine the effort of turning somebody and this is a two person job normally.
Charleen Solomon: [00:06:12] Actually most of the time it's a one person job. Which is why I invented it. And so a standard chucks is just a flat, incontinent pad.
It's an absorbent material, uh, for incontinence and a nurse will roll the patient on their side and hold the patient up with one hand and clean with the other. Now with my product, I simply put extending supports on both sides so that when you turn the patient, the support attaches to the bedrail. And then I put in a tearaway center, like a paper towel that it does center, actually tears away.
And the weight is completely off of the nurse. And so you're now hands-free, um, and you can clean the patient and, there's no weight on the nurse.
Robert Fenton: [00:07:06] How did you come up with that. It's sounds, all these things sound easy when it gets explained, but maybe you could tell me a bit about how you can come around that.
Charleen Solomon: [00:07:15] Well, as a hospice nurse, you're by yourself and, I was a traveling nurse and so I was dealing with, A gentleman who was 95 years old. And he was a pillar in the community and he had probably 25 to 30 people a day coming to say goodbye to him. He was an FFA president and a dairy farmer and a very proud man.
And he was in renal failure. And so you had to keep him looking very fresh and, it was important to me to give him that dignity, you know, and my, replacement nurse did not, come in. So I was on my second shift. Um, my 12 hour, second shift and my back was on fire. I thought I had ice on my back with an ACE bandage and I thought, Oh my gosh, I can't turn him one more time, but I need to.
And so I went into my car and I sat down. And my sweatshirt got caught in the door and I looked at it and I thought, huh. So I took my sweatshirt and I tucked it under him. And then I took my scissors. I attached the one end of the sweatshirt to the bedrail and I cut out the center and it supported him completely.
And I, all that weight was off of me and I thought, I need this. So I went to the procurement office, at Sutter and I said, I need this, can you get this for me? And we looked, and there was nothing like it out there. And, this is my third patent. I just, my brain just works like that
Robert Fenton: [00:08:53] yeah.
Charleen Solomon: [00:08:54] Yeah, so long story short, I, did a patent search wasn't out there. So I decided this time I'm going to bring it to market myself. I had sold my other two patents outright without bringing it to market and having a proven product. And this time I wanted to have a proven product and then sell the patent.
Robert Fenton: [00:09:15] That's that's amazing. So from a jumper caught in your sweater was caught on the door and to a product I'm always amazed at where people get insights from. And I think the only consistent thing is it's always something surprising and it's always that, that singular moment people often, often have. That's phenomenal.
How did you go from that moment? Because I would think a lot of people. Doing like the work you do and all their work in healthcare in, in, in an arena where there's so many barriers, oftentimes to bring new products, we can get to that in a moment. People will jerryrig things all the time, but it stays that way.
It's like you ask Charlene or Rob or Teena, like they have this thing they do. And they never goes beyond that. I mean, how did you go? And maybe your experience helped with this, but how did you go from this could be a thing to, this is a thing. Now you've a company, right? And it's, you've been around for some years doing this and it's successful.
Charleen Solomon: [00:10:10] Um, it was hard. I actually thought, well, let me just try, try this and see if my peers like it. Right. So I decided just to do a prototype and just to see what my nursing staff thought of it. So I did one made out of cloth and I did Velcro instead of what it is now, um, which, you can see, uh, um, ariseq2.com and there's a video that shows the whole, experience of having turn and change it.
Robert Fenton: [00:10:45] We can link that in the show notes.
Charleen Solomon: [00:10:47] Yeah. so. My peers were like, they just went like this. Why didn't I think of that? Yeah. It's so simple. But as it turns out, it's not simple at all because all of the manufacturing are set up for chucks that are a standard 32 by 36. Their machines are all set up for that.
And I have a 72 inch, footprint mine's bigger. And so, but the need was so great. And I thought everybody I showed it to was like, Charleen, you've got to do this. You, you just have to do this. So I thought, well, let me enter a competition and see. Let's let's just see if this really is a good thing.
So I entered a, competition, medical competition and, I won first place, and a doctor and a VA doctor in the room. And he pulled me aside afterwards and he said, Charleen, he said, my nurses are soldiers. And they're being injured on the front line and I need to do something to stop this. He said, we put in ceiling lifts, we paid $21 million per facility for these ceiling lifts.
And there, the nurses aren't using them. They're only used 3% of the time. He said, I want this in our hospitals. And so, that really gave me the encouragement to move forward.
Robert Fenton: [00:12:20] Yeah. it sounds like a lot, a lot of things, you either have a gift or things just happen in a certain way, but the reality is often different.
Can you tell me about some kind of low points or challenges to kind of gotten in your way? Cause I always find that's been, some of the greatest learning happens is when we are wrong.
Charleen Solomon: [00:12:38] The hardest part was finding a manufacturer.
Robert Fenton: [00:12:41] Yeah.
Charleen Solomon: [00:12:41] That was the hardest.
Robert Fenton: [00:12:42] How did you go about that?
Charleen Solomon: [00:12:44] So. A lot of phone calls just to see if anyone was interested in making it.
And a lot of people were interested in making it, but then once they saw the product and they saw the center is a cutout piece, they were like, we're not set up for that. That, that doesn't work for us. And you have extending straps. We're not set up for that either. so, and you're a startup and you have, no backing.
So the answer's no, and it was no, no, no, no, no, no.
Until I went to a company, based out of Ohio that just did prototyping. And he was retired from, Procter and Gamble and he worked in the incontinent division and he said, I showed him the product. And he said, Charleen there's heroes and zeros.
And this is a hero. I'll make it for you. So he made it.
Robert Fenton: [00:13:46] Out of curiosity too, to share with people about the tenacity. Uh, first of all, how many people do you think you have to contact to find that one? Yes. And, and how long would that, would that have taken you?
Charleen Solomon: [00:13:58] Um, it was about 200.
Robert Fenton: [00:14:01] Yeah. Okay. wow I was thinking maybe 100, 200. That's impressive.
Charleen Solomon: [00:14:05] Yeah. And it took, it took, uh, over two years. Yeah.
Robert Fenton: [00:14:10] How did you keep going through that period?
Charleen Solomon: [00:14:12] I kept working. I had to work and I did it, before work, um, on my lunch hour, I did it after work. I worked on the weekends. I worked on, uh, I would work, uh, three days on four days off.
So on my days off I worked and then I sold my house. And I use the funds that I quit my job and I use the funds from my house and I, I went all over.
Robert Fenton: [00:14:43] Yeah. To kick the stool out, even to all in no safety net.
Charleen Solomon: [00:14:47] And everybody told me I was nuts they were just like, Charleen, what, what are you doing? You know, but I believed in it.
I just believed in it so much because I had not gotten a no yet. Right. I started getting prototypes that were disposable. Cause I wanted it to be disposable. I wanted it to be a tearaway center, like a paper towel. And I got to that point. Right. And when I got to that point and I started testing it on patients and the nurses started seeing it and the doctor started seeing it.
They were just like, when, when can we get it this ? So then, it took a long time to get the backing. I had to get investors. And so I went to friends and family and, um, My brother, just, he put his neck on the line for me. And he asked his very wealthy friends and they each put in a hundred thousand, there was three.
And so that added to my hundred thousand. So I had 400,000 to work with and that's about what it costs to bring it to market.
Robert Fenton: [00:16:03] Wow. And after that, were, were you able to, I think you have a background in sales and marketing, was that enough thing to start generating revenue and start getting returned?
Charleen Solomon: [00:16:12] Yes. And we just, we landed a very large contract with Dignity Health, who just merged with Common Spirit. And now they're the second largest healthcare facility in the United States. So we're doing well. And, um, we just landed a contract with the VA. So we're doing we're doing well. We have another test coming up with Kaiser Permanente, a trial.
With Kaiser Permanente. Our manufacturer is Standard Fiber Textiles and, they are incredible to me. They're a gift. I'm not kidding. They have, they so believe in this product that they gave me a credit line. You know mean that was a gift
Robert Fenton: [00:17:08] That was at the beginning or that was early.
Charleen Solomon: [00:17:10] It was early on.
Robert Fenton: [00:17:12] Oh, that's impressive. Because they can be incredibly difficult to get. I know I've heard a lot of stories.
Charleen Solomon: [00:17:17] Yeah. And especially during this pandemic, people finally saw that nurses really are frontline workers and they are the heroes that help people every single day.
And I went to them and honestly, I just asked them to help me. I need help. And I got it.
Robert Fenton: [00:17:42] That's incredibly inspiring. Uh, Charleen, um, appreciate you sharing that. I want to go back to something you said here at the beginning. I think this was when the moment happened, where he got the idea, before you got to your car and had some of self thinking time to try to solve your challenges.
You had to cover another shift. And I know looking at the past year we've had with COVID being as impactful as it is during the current pandemic. There's a lot of shifts that need to be covered by other people. And I'm curious as to, just with that in mind, how has, how has the Q2 solution been, valuable or used throughout the past year?
Charleen Solomon: [00:18:16] Yes with the Q2, instead of needing two nurses to hold the patient, you can use one. And because it takes half the time, uh, the nurses aren't so exhausted. And so, that we were just approved, through Dignity, in infection control for COVID. And so, that was another gift.
Uh, that I wasn't expecting. And so it's kind of like , just an added bonus that happened, that we were approved for that. Timing is really important, and the fact that I didn't give up. That was really important. There was times when I had no money, like nothing.
I mean, I'm talking, like I thought, how am I going to pay my PG&E bill? Do I pay my PG&E bill? Or do I go to the grocery store? Right. So you pay your PG&E billand you find a can of soup somewhere.
Find those noodles.
Robert Fenton: [00:19:29] A lesson learned for me, just listening to your story is I think, I think tenacity is something that people forget about or that I guess intelligently persisting is the way I often talk about this is when the data supports. You should stop. That's the time to stop, but not stopping just because it's hard.
So a ton of respect for you for persevering during those times and getting out into the other side
Charleen Solomon: [00:19:53] I was just thinking that. What kept me moving forward honestly, was that I wasn't doing it for myself, just for myself. There was nurses out there that I completely respect that I knew had been injured.
And I just thought, I don't want this to keep happening. So I had a mission to accomplish. And so, that, that kept me moving forward too.
Robert Fenton: [00:20:16] Yeah. And I'm curious if you look back on the lessons learned over the journeys so far, besides the persistence, having a mission, vision is larger than yourself, which you clearly had to keep you going through those challenges.
Any other key lessons learned you you'd want to share with listeners today for them, if they're embarking on a journey similar to yours right now.
Charleen Solomon: [00:20:38] I think you have to just be really flexible. And I think you can't let one thing just blow you out of the water, you know, because you take so many different hits all, all at once sometimes. Take a deep breath, stop and take a deep breath, you know, walk outside there's times when I'd get so mad about something that I would go outside and just throw firewood around. Right. There's no one else to take it out on. And your team changes. When you start off with your nuclear team and you start growing and position start changing and people start changing, you have to be flexible, you know, and you have to listen.
And sometimes you just want to say, can you just do it. Please just do it instead. You have to listen and you go. Aha. I understand. Okay. I understand so.
Robert Fenton: [00:21:46] Well, this is being incredibly interesting for me to listen. And I'm inspired by your story, Charleen, I appreciate you sharing that today. Is there anything you'd like to kind of add, to have us put it to the show notes or anything like that or anything you'd like to share with people about what you're doing at AriseQ2 before we finish up?
Charleen Solomon: [00:22:04] Well, I would just like, um, everyone to know that with the Arise Q2, we are helping to solve the pressure ulcer problem in the world. And so, please take a look at our program. Please take a look at our, our video and, please pass the message forward, you know, to nurses and to doctors and hospitals, how this could really help solve a problem.
And it's a massive problem. Hospitals spend a quarter of a trillion dollars a year on nursing injuries and pressure ulcers.
That's a big problem and I'm thankful, I'm sure everybody knows that you're working to solve that. So thank you very much for joining today. I'm definitely definitely leaving this chat inspired. So thank you for that. Stay safe and, uh, looking forward to keeping in touch, Charleen.
Thank you so much. Bye bye.