With the help of a Jacksonville accelerator, this company is looking to transform nursing education.

BGEI was awarded $120,000 Microsoft support and services AND a high value opportunity to participate in a business accelerator program offered by PS27 Ventures at the Inaugural Spark Tank in Jacksonville, Fl Thursday 4/7.


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With the help of a Jacksonville accelerator, this company is looking to transform nursing education
Apr 8, 2016, 2:51pm EDT

Jensen Werley
Jacksonville Business Journal

Elizabeth Benson shook hands with the first judge, the second judge and the fifth judge, but skipped the two men in the middle.

The slighted investors began whispering to each other while Benson of B&G Educational Innovations began her SparkTank presentation.

Benson, her husband James and business partner Linda Goodman, all health care educators, shared how her company is trying to bring interpersonal communication back to nursing education. Their invention: devices that allow students to practice their skills and dialogue on real volunteers rather than mannequins.

“So, how did you feel when I ignored you?” Benson asked the third and fourth judge. “Because that’s what’s happening in our health care.”

Benson pulled the stunt to showcase how medical providers are spending too much time interacting with their technology and patient charts, and not enough time actually building up a rapport and trust with a patient — sometimes even ignore them.

She had gotten their attention.

While BGEI didn’t win Top Creator at One Spark, the Maryland-based startup wowed the judges so much with their preparation and research on Jacksonville’s market that the second-place team was also invited to participate in PS27 Venture’s business accelerator, the top prize for Spark Tank.

“We’re just hanging on going Mach 2 with our hair on fire,” Benson said, visibly shocked the company did so well. “We’re in a very early stage. We only started designing at the end of last May.”

Benson said BGEI started when she and her husband James volunteered to be practice patients for a nursing simulation.

The students were practicing sticking IVs in plastic arms. When, without warning, the student nurse stuck a needle in the arm that was supposed to represent James, he said ‘ouch.’

“And she just looked up, so startled he had said anything,” Benson said. “Meanwhile, we didn’t have enough arms to go around, so my student just said ‘pretend I stuck an IV in your arm.’

“That’s when the light went off. There’s got to be an inexpensive way to introduce more opportunities for students to get those interpersonal skills. There’s a real disconnect between the caring part of health care.”

Benson said every day a thousand people die from preventable medical problems that stem from communication and technology errors in health care.

Her solution: creating sleeves, gloves and bibs that have tubing, pressure sensors and blood simulant.

“We want to use technology to go back to the beginning,” Benson said. “Reintroduce the human part. Something has been missing from our health care, and we want to reconnect communication.”

Using practice mannequins are a helpful part of health education, said Goodman, but can cost $100,000.

“We need the mannequin, but we also need to know how to be with the patient,” she said. With simulations, usually a volunteer will speak for the mannequin. With their devices, Goodman said the mannequin can be cut out and students can learn how to treat a human patient.

“In health care, people have to talk to us,” she said. “Nurses need to be prepared to do it.”

BGEI is also meeting with business developers in Maryland, but Goodman said members of the team will come down to Jacksonville for the accelerator.

Jim Stallings, managing partner of PS27 Ventures and one of the Spark Tank judges, said the team was so close to winning and so energetic, he wanted to work with them.

“Without naming names, I’ve already reached out to a major medical institution here and told them the story, and they’re very interested,” he said Friday.

“One thing that got my attention is at the end, we asked what role they would want to play, because this could be a big company,” he said. “And they answered: We’re teachers. We know what we do well, we know where we need some help. We want to launch this, help solve some problems for people in nursing school, and then go back to what we’re doing, which is teach. I was so moved by that.”

Jensen covers logistics, trade manufacturing and defense.