Nationwide Children's Hospital photo

A worldwide pandemic may have stopped much of the world in its tracks, but students and project partners involved in Fisher's Health Care Industry Immersion program didn’t skip a beat. 

Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute had partnered with Fisher College of Business on projects through the Immersion program. The program provides students hands-on opportunities to take deep dives into seven relevant fields in business.  

Despite all the disruption caused by COVID-19, the Immersion partners and students adapted and delivered on their promises to one another. 

Nationwide Children’s Hospital  

Immersion students had already been onsite at Nationwide Children’s Hospital approximately five times before everything changed. One team — made up of Fisher students Lauren Beard, Anna Jaffe, along with Chase Byington from the College of Arts and Sciences — was working on a project focused on pain management for patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). They also watched as health care workers gently attended to each young life.   

Anna Jaffe
Anna Jaffe

“It was very eye-opening and heartbreaking — but also very inspirational to see how much effort is really going into saving these infants’ lives,” Jaffe said. 

Beard felt empowered by the group’s work with the NICU.  

“What really had a big impact on me was being able to go in, see the babies and realize that we aren’t medical students, we aren’t clinicians, but we could still have an impact on human lives,” she said.  

Those powerful experiences were cut short when the pandemic hit. Jim Gallup, the service line quality improvement coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Gregory Ryshen, the facility’s service line coordinator, both worked with Fisher in the partnership; neither wanted to abandon the students nor the program. 

“We made a request to our leadership at the time that we knew things were going sideways,” said Gallup, who coordinated the teams. “And they responded that as long as we were able to figure out the technology, that it would work. We’re very fortunate that both Nationwide Children's and Ohio State had the technology to support this adventure — and it was an adventure!” 

Ryshen, who served as the in-house mentor for Byington, Jaffe and Beard, said hospital officials were keen to maintain the commitment and have students offer input on their respective projects.  

“We say ‘let your yes be yes and your no be no,’” he said. “We committed to the Ohio State students having this experience, and we were going to do the best we could with what we had.” 

And what they had were webcam meetings, which offered flexibility. 

Lauren Beard
Lauren Beard

“It was pretty hard to fit everybody’s class schedules together to collaborate,” Beard said. “So if we had to do something outside of our meetings with Greg, it was pretty easy to work around things because all of our extracurriculars weren’t going on; we didn’t have additional meetings; we didn’t have to go anywhere; weather was never an issue, and finding a meeting space was never an issue.”  

There were also downsides, including technical glitches and a feeling of being disconnected from the hospital and each other.   

“It just makes the experience a little bit different than we had anticipated,” Jaffe said. 

But the students said participating in the program was still very valuable, despite the uncontrollable circumstances. 

“It was really inspiring to see how hard everyone works at Nationwide Children’s, especially in regard to the NICU with all the newborns,” Byington said. “As someone who is aspiring to be a health care provider, it was amazing to see. There’s just so many cogs in the wheel that need to run in order for the whole thing to work.” 

Jaffe described the experience as “eye-opening.”  

“Knowing that all of us want to go into some field within healthcare, it was good to get an overview of a hospital’s administration and structure,” she said. 

Cheryl Dickerson, senior lecturer in management sciences at Fisher, advises the Health Care Industry Immersion.  

“When it was first announced that the students wouldn’t be coming back to campus, I was relieved, surprised and amazed that both sponsors were very committed to going forward considering the COVID-19 planning challenges that were unfolding at both of their hospitals,” she said. “I felt very gratified that they also saw value in the program and the partnership.”  

The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute  

The James was also very committed to the students and the Immersion program in spite of the pandemic.  

Nanette Richardson, senior process engineer for the James, said the hospital’s theory behind care of patients, care of self and care of one another is based in building relationships.  

“We made a commitment to these students to be part of their education and to help them understand healthcare,” she said. 

Three groups of students visited facilities affiliated with the James about a half-dozen times prior to the pandemic.   

Fisher student Annie Lisle and her team worked on a project centered around discharge planning.  

Annie Lisle
Annie Lisle

“Our team was tasked with analyzing new data released from the James in order to see the trends of patient discharge data within the hospital,” she said.  

Her experience was largely positive, but she found the online transition had its share of challenges.  

“From the very beginning of the semester, we had prepared to give our final presentation to the Quality, Patient Safety and Reliability Committee at the James," she said. “However, in light of COVID-19, this wasn’t able to happen in person. Instead, we were given the opportunity to present our findings virtually to the James operations team.” 

But there were silver linings to the adjustment.  

She said traditional, in-person meet-ups can cause some people to feel uncomfortable speaking up or like they are being put on the spot. 

“However, I found that each one of us felt more comfortable bringing our ideas to the table virtually,” Lisle said. “We were easily able to share ideas and files throughout the transition to online learning, which led to strong communication and comfort with the project. We became more comfortable contacting each other, and we were able to have a more fluid working schedule in regard to meeting.” 

Richardson said all students involved with the James learned about operations improvement, the way hospital staff approach a project, along with lessons centered on use of data.   

“We gave them homework assignments to go back and do before they came back to us again,” she said. 

Despite COVID-19 turning the students’ Immersion projects sideways, Lisle remained grateful for the experience.   

“I really appreciated all the accommodations that the James staff gave our team, along with Professor Dickerson,” she said.  

Richardson said many of the projects are very complicated, so hospital officials offered them a “snapshot” of what was going on.  

“We try to give them the big picture introduction to health care,” she said. “This way, they can understand the why behind what we do.” 

Photo courtesy of Nationwide Children's Hospital

“We made a commitment to these students to be part of their education and to help them understand health care.”

Nanette RichardsonSenior Process Engineer, The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute