Skip to main content



Institute for Health Innovation Idea Challenge, Growing the Health Care Workforce

May 16, 2022 - Northern Kentucky University’s Institute for Health Innovation hosted Idea Challenge: Growing the Health Care Workforce on May 11. The challenge was designed to identify innovative solutions to address the current and looming shortage of healthcare workers by either sustaining them in their occupation or boosting entry into the field.

“Pre-pandemic, almost half of US physicians exhibited signs of burnout, including emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a feeling of ineffectiveness. COVID-19 has significantly exacerbated these trends: over two thirds of current front-line healthcare workers believe that they need additional help to manage their current levels of stress. These trends have particularly impacted our region,” said Dr. Valerie Hardcastle, St. Elizabeth Healthcare Executive Director of the Institute for Health Innovation and Vice President for Health Innovation at NKU. “There is no doubt that the changed landscape of health care in the US has negatively impacted healthcare worker employment. We need innovative solutions for overcoming these barriers.”

Four finalists for the Challenge detailed their solutions in five-minute pitch videos, which ranged from changing governmental regulations to decreasing on-the-job psychosocial hazards, to increasing youth interest in healthcare careers. A panel of five judges from various areas in the healthcare industry, including Nancy Aichholz, President & CEO at Aviatra Accelerators; Paul Bruggeman, a medical device entrepreneur; Sandra George, Chief of Services and Development at NorthKey Community Care; Dale Stephenson, Dean of the College of Human and Health Services at NKU; and Brandi Cornett, Senior Human Resources Business Partner at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. Judging for the competition focused on the significance of the specific problem the team was trying to address, product or program viability, and the potential impact of the proposed solution.

2022 Health Care Workforce Idea Challenge Winners

First Place $4,000: Ranae Wellness Company – Addressing Psychosocial hazards destroying the careers and wellbeing of helping professionals

Kristen Harness | Leah Legrone | Kelli White


Second Place $2,000: Wild Success - Promoting Physician Wellness

Pam Cho | Maria Espinola, Psy.D. | Stevi Carr

Third Place $1,000: Team Norse - Careers in Healthcare through Innovative Pathways (CHIP)

Natalie Eller | Emily Miller | Hanson Nguyen | Maddie Yaw

Fourth Place: Faith Boosters: Bureaucracy Busters

Rebecca Elkins,PhD, CHES, LPTA | Rhyanne McDade, PhD, CHES | Chandra Shannon, RN, NM

About the Institute for Health Innovation: Founded in 2018, the Institute for Health Innovation (IHI) at NKU, located in the heart of the newly constructed Health Innovation Center, pioneers solutions to the health challenges facing Northern Kentucky. We drive change that directly addresses urgent unmet health needs by seizing the opportunity to work with communities, forging partnerships, and envisioning the future of healthcare through innovative solutions.

About NKU: Founded in 1968, NKU is an entrepreneurial state university of over 16,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus nestled between Highland Heights, Kentucky and bustling downtown Cincinnati. We are a regionally engaged university committed to empowering our students to have fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. While we are one of the fastest-growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit