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OVAHCS Pilots Fitbit Innovation to Benefit Employees

Pictured in photo from left to right: Kim Bielicki, innovation program manager, and Candace McNulty, float pool nurse manager and float pool staff - Sara Parlier, RN, and Jiany Hidalgo, RN
Pictured in photo from left to right: Kim Bielicki, innovation program manager, and Candace McNulty, float pool nurse manager and float pool staff - Sara Parlier, RN, and Jiany Hidalgo, RN

By Melanie L. Thomas, MBA, Acting Public Affairs Officer Orlando VA Health Care System

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

As part of the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) Innovators Network (INET), the Orlando VA Healthcare System (OVAHCS) leaders are empowering employees to design their own innovative solutions to problems they experience in their workspace, firsthand.

The INET program allows for employees to test out new ideas and join forces with stakeholders across the Veteran community to improve the way VA serves Veterans and invests in those who wish to recognize and address challenges, by providing staff with the training, tools, and resources needed to bring about solutions.

One of the most recent pilot programs launched last December at the OVAHCS includes 50 float pool nurses who volunteered to test out the incorporation of Fitbits into their work unit and daily routine.

Since the start of the pilot, OVAHCS has seen a reduction in the nurses calling out within this workgroup which has led to a decrease in staffing issues and overall, healthier and more well-rested nurses reporting for duty each day.

The pilot also promotes whole health aspects such as providing staff with the opportunity to participate in activities like stretching exercises, adult coloring, aroma therapy, and more.

“The idea behind this program is to integrate some whole health practices into our workday so that it becomes part of the norm,” said Candace McNulty, float pool nurse manager. “We are already reaping the benefits and seeing a reduction in stress amongst staff, an increase in morale, a better (more positive) working environment, and seeing stronger bonds and relationships form between coworkers.”

For Olivia Chase, float pool nurse, OVAHCS, the incorporation of the Fitbit has positively impacted her perspective at work.

“I feel like this program and the use of the Fitbits have made me become more active,” said Chase. “It has improved my mood and has even increased my activity outside of work. I am now even spending more time being physically active with my family.”

Makayla Maggi, float pool nursing assistant, OVAHCS, explains that the pilot program has helped her to transform her old way of thinking while at work.

“In the past, if I had forgotten to bring something important with me to a patient’s room, I would go straight to a negative place and think about how stupid that was of me,” said Maggi. “Now, I look at those situations as opportunities to get in additional steps to beat my coworkers in that day’s step challenge or work week hustle that our unit competes in against each other.”

A creative individualized dashboard comprising of aggregate data developed by Fitbit helps the team better understand their wellness needs and assists McNulty in developing challenges for her staff to participate in.

According to McNulty, the incorporation of the challenges has shown to produce an additional 8 percent  increase in activity amongst the float pool nursing staff participating in the pilot.


“We think the future of Fitbit and biosensor data is going to become a great resource to support health care providers by giving them access to real time data that will help them make better informed decisions about, not only their personal health, but the health of their patients as well,” said Christopher Kaiser, senior manager of business development, Fitbit.

According to Kaiser, the need to support our health care professionals with Fitbit technology quickly emerged during the onset of the pandemic.

“The pandemic has really brought on a lot of burn-out amongst our health care professionals,” said Kaiser. Fitbit technology gives them the additional awareness to make adjustments to closely monitor themselves, which may help in eliminating burn-out.”

Fitbit currently works with over 1500 companies, 70 fortune 500 companies and 100 health plans that utilize its four pillars to monitor sleep, nutrition, activity, and mental well-being by way of a specialized dashboard created to provide a high-level overview of an individual’s data.

The current whole health pilot program involving the float pool nursing unit at the OVAHCS will be conducted over the course of a full year. Once enough data and information are collected and the program proves to be a success, INET will look into spreading the innovation to other VHA sites of care across the country. 

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