Listen to this article.
Voiced by Amazon Polly

This series takes a look at the stories appearing in The Rebel Nurse Handbook, which features inspiring nurses who push the boundaries of healthcare and the nursing profession. This installment focuses on Brittany Molkenthin and the pivotal moment of her innovative nursing career.

In her junior year of nursing school, Brittany Molkenthin envisioned a new premise for a major maternal healthcare innovation. While shadowing a Lactation Consultant in the maternity ward, she encountered a mother attempting to breastfeed for the first time. What should have been a beautiful and life-affirming experience quickly went south. After months of planning to breastfeed her first-born child, multiple classes, and a volume of research, she had continuous trouble with positioning the baby, each time unable to get the right latch. The few times it worked, neither the mother nor the attending staff had any way of gauging how much milk the baby was receiving. After the numerous attempts that afternoon, an overall exasperation filled the room, accompanied by tears running down both the baby’s and the mother’s face. Desperate for her baby to eat, she asked for formula and a bottle.

Brittany replayed the incident over and over, throughout the
day and later that night. As a student, she was directly exposed to the concept
of innovation and the pain point/solution mindset through her school’s
Healthcare Innovations Program. Musing upon the dilemma, she identified the
pain point as the inability to register how much milk a baby was receiving from
its mother. A solution, she surmised, would be to develop “a device that
accurately calculated the amount of breast milk that infants receive during
breastfeeding.”

After working with a team of biomedical engineers to develop
a working prototype, Brittany was ready to enter in her university’s “Shark
Tank” event. Although she did not win the competition, she was undeterred.
Brittany reached out to one of the event’s judges to discuss plans for her
device further and, thereafter, push forward with her startup. The year after
graduation, she filed a provisional patent and launched into a flurry of
networking, pitch decks, and attendance at innovation events.

While applying for startup business grants and working to
keep her nascent company alive, Brittany had her hands full: employed as a
bedside RN in pediatric intensive care and simultaneously studying to become a
pediatric primary care NP. Her breastmilk gauging device, Manoula, is designed to inform
“mothers and providers how much breastmilk a baby has consumed” and share the
data via wireless technology. The product is moving toward its alpha prototype
and is expected to enter the market in 2021.

DailyNurse asked Brittany: What was the hardest part
of starting your LLC and creating a new medical device? And what was the most
rewarding?

She responded, “the hardest part about starting an LLC and
creating a medical device was the mere fact of starting with no previous
medical device development, business, or entrepreneurial background. I thought
I was going to be a nurse, that was it… I never imagined it would get this
far. The most rewarding aspect is seeing how far the company and the device has
come since that drawing of my “vision” started as a Crayola picture
and a school project. It is amazing to think this device will be in the hands
of breastfeeding mothers someday.”

Brittany also has some advice for any nurse who has an innovative idea and is interested in turning it into a new product: “Find a team. Team is essential to the success of any startup or any innovative idea. A team that shares your passion, drive, and vision can help bring an innovative idea to fruition.”



Koren Thomas
Share This