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Anatomy of a Hopkins Nurse


Keith Boettiger - Anatomy of a Hopkins Nurse

Keith Boettiger100 Percent Nurse Leader…but that probably doesn’t mean what you think it does.

Far from the ICU where he started his career in nursing – or serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Senegal where he decided to become a nurse—Keith Boettiger is now the president of Abbott’s Neuromodulation business, a division worth over 800 million dollars that is dedicated to the development of medical devices for people living with chronic pain and movement disorders. Keith earned his BSN from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in 1996 and practiced at the bedside for three years. He brought his clinical and professional experience to the med-tech industry when he took a position selling medical devices.

So, what is neuromodulation? And how do nurses fit in?

“Neuromodulation” is the application of electricity or pharmaceutical agents to nerves or neurological sites to treat epidemic disease or its symptoms. Abbott develops and manufactures implantable spinal cord stimulators that treat intractable chronic pain conditions, providing a non-opioid and non-addictive alternative for patients with no other solution. Abbott also develop deep brain stimulation devices that treat the symptoms of movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. As for nursing…

“My clinical background gave me credibility, helping me become a very successful medical device sales representative.” Keith says. “As part of this role, I was part of the team in the operating room and my job was to make sure that devices are utilized properly to ensure the best outcomes for the patient and physician.”

Spinal cord stimulator implants are unique in the sense that the surgeon implants the device while the patient is awake to ensure the device is in the right spot for optimal pain relief. “So I actually interacted with patients during the procedure. My nursing background and confidence communicating with patients at an anxious time helped the implant team achieve the best outcomes,” Keith says. Keith also gained confidence from working with different types of physicians when he was a nurse. “This came in handy if I needed to verbally insert myself during a case to give advice that would help the surgical team achieve the best health outcomes. Without my nursing background, I don’t believe I would have had that confidence.”

The tenets Keith learned as a nurse came back again and again as he furthered his career.

“Many people in the medical device industry have always worked in a business or corporate setting,” Keith says, “My ability to interact with and encourage many kinds of people to perform at their best comes from being a nurse. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a team as a nurse manager or as an executive—nursing experience is invaluable.”

In addition, Keith credits the perspective he gained as a nurse with helping to create the strategy that took Abbott’s chronic pain therapies business from No. 3 in the marketplace to No. 1.

From Keith:

"Putting patients at the center of everything we develop while others focus on the disease or the side-effects of the disease continues to give us a competitive advantage. Consider this: chronic pain significantly impacts a patient’s quality of life; the status quo device lasts up to 10 years but has to be charged daily or weekly. Psychologically, patients’ awareness of the device reminds them of their pain, thus impacting the patient’s overall outcome. So in 2016 Abbott developed a recharge-free device with similar longevity that patients don’t have to interact with and can worry less about—an almost invisible therapy for the patient. Innovation with the patient at the center ultimately delivers a better patient outcome."

The Next Generation of Nurse Leaders

“The amazing thing about being a nurse is that you have so many options to grow your career while still helping people,” Keith says.

“There’s a big opportunity right now for advanced practice nurses in specialty practice because surgeons are increasing their focus on procedures. Diagnostic and follow-up activities are becoming the domain of the nurse.” And nurses are ready. “Nurses are prepared for just about anything.  As a nurse on the floor, as a nurse manager or as an advanced practice clinician… you learn leadership.”

100 Percent Nurse Leader…but that probably doesn’t mean what you think it does.





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