Barbara Dehn, RN, MS, NP, best known as Nurse Barb, has a wealth of knowledge on a broad range of health issues, which she has shared with girls and women of all ages. Her goal is to help them tackle medical conditions that impact them with the most up-to-date treatment options.
Dehn started her career as a nurse in pediatric intensive care at Stanford, where she was on the team that cared for the first children to have heart transplants. That experience fueled her passion for advancing patient care, particularly for women.
Since then, she has become one of the most sought-after speakers on women’s health and has appeared on CBS, ABC, CNN, Good Morning America Now and NBC’s iVillageLive. She is also a lecturer at Stanford University, contributor for the Huffington Post and has launched her own health publishing company, Blue Orchid Press, which has issued a series of innovative and award-winning health guides that are used by millions of women across the country. Nurse Barb has been a strong advocate of medical innovation and the Fogarty Institute for Innovation. Recently, we had the privilege of catching up with her to discuss her career, passion for helping women and her work supporting several Fogarty Institute startups.
Q. How did you first become interested in healthcare and how did you become one of the leading experts in the field?
A. I read a lot as a kid, especially when I lived in Kodiak, Alaska. One book that had a profound impact described the early days of heart transplantation by industry pioneers Dr. Christiaan Barnard and Dr. Michael DeBakey. That was it! I was hooked into the idea of working in healthcare. As luck would have it, my first job as a nurse was at Stanford, where I was privileged to work in Pediatric Intensive Care caring for some of the first children to have heart transplants from Dr. Norman Shumway’s team.
It’s amazing to think back now and realize that Dr. Fogarty was part of that team too, though our paths never crossed. And now, it’s such a privilege to be invited to work with some of the innovators that Dr. Fogarty has inspired and mentored.
How did I become a leading Nurse Practitioner?
This is a difficult question to answer, because I’m one of many nurse practitioners working with millions of people every day and my contributions pale in comparison to some of my colleagues.
My goal is to empower people with health information in a way that is easily understandable, while also validating their concerns and anticipating the underlying issues and understandable fears that swirl around any health issue. I want to help people make the best choices for their and their family’s lives.
I started a health publishing company (Blue Orchid Press) in 2004 to do just that, and I’m proud that over five million health guides have been distributed in English, Spanish and Mandarin. I also have been providing health education on television, through on-line videos and via my blog, Nurse Barb’s Daily Dose, as well as on social media (@NurseBarbDehn, facebook.com/Nurse-Barb-Dehn).
Q. What are the most rewarding aspects of your job/s?
A. I love caring for patients. It’s an honor and a privilege when people trust you with their health. I always say: we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we talk. I’ve found that by listening carefully to my patients, I can better guide them to the information and menu of options they have for treatments. Sometimes, just listening is enough! I think all of us want a real connection with our health care providers, and I hope that I’m providing that.
Q. What are the most critical health issues you are seeing, and how do we go about addressing them?
A. We have a range of critical health issues that impact people across the globe. I think most of us in developed countries take healthy mothers and healthy babies for granted, but the truth is that we can do a better job everywhere helping ensure safer childbirth and more effective neonatal resuscitation.
What happens in labor and delivery and the immediate postpartum time period continues to be one of the most impactful events with long-term and potentially multiple consequences for women, children and the entire family. That’s why I’ve been so impressed by the Fogarty Institute’s commitment to women’s and newborn health, through such companies as MedicalCue, Materna and InPress.
Q. What role is medical technology playing to support your field and what innovations/trends are you most excited about?
A. Medical technology is changing women’s health care in so many unexpected ways, and the innovators are looking at the concerns from different angles. I’ve been really impressed with Materna’s devices, which have the potential to reduce complications after childbirth, and Madorra’s ultrasound technology that can help sensitive tissue recover without hormones.
When I first saw a demonstration of how NeoCue (MedicalCue’s innovative technology) works to help providers resuscitate newborns, I was overwhelmed by the potential to not only save babies, but to also help the health care workers do what is needed, in the right sequence and in the right way when they themselves might be anxious in what is literally a life-and-death situation.
Q. How did you become involved with the Fogarty Institute and what role are you playing in supporting some of its startups?
A. I became involved at the Fogarty Institute after Dr. St. Goar saw an article I wrote for the Huffington Post on a TAVR/CORE valve heart surgery. I think he saw how excited I was about innovation and very graciously asked me to come and meet some of the companies-in-residence at the Fogarty Institute, where he is on the board.
I was blown away, inspired and in awe of the creativity and innovation happening right here on the El Camino Hospital campus. The new and novel ways to solve a variety of vexing medical conditions and problems gave me goose bumps. It was, and still is, so exciting that I offered my help.
My role is first to be an enthusiastic cheerleader, which is easy because the innovations are going to impact so many millions of lives. Some of the companies have tapped me as a consultant; and others to help them connect with more patients, key opinion leaders and other experts for feedback and perspective. It’s a true privilege to be a very small part of this incredible place.