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Empowering New York’s Nurse Heroes to Handle the Worst of the Pandemic

The Academy, Mount Sinai and Sweden’s Sana Labs Team Up to “Upskill” Nurses Volunteering to Treat COVID-19 Patients

Published April 16, 2020

By Roger Torda

Empowering New York’s Nurse Heroes to Handle the Worst of the Pandemic

The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) has helped launch a transformational artificial-intelligence-based online learning program to increase the number of Registered Nurses able to handle the explosion of COVID-19 patients in New York City’s Intensive Care Units (ICUs).

Leveraging its global network of expertise, the NYAS identified a cutting edge online learning company, Sweden’s Sana Labs, that was willing to donate its team pro bono to meet New York’s need. The world renowned Mount Sinai Health System, one of the largest in New York with  eight hospital campuses,  jumped at the chance to “upskill” their heroic nurses and provided Sana with curricula drawn from the American Association of Clinical Care Nurses and Mount Sinai itself. In record time, this material was transformed into a 16 hour course that can be taken in short batches during break time or at home on personal computers.

So far, about 100 nurses in a pilot program at Mount Sinai Hospital System have used this innovative learning platform.  As many as an additional two thousand Mount Sinai nurses may  take the training in weeks ahead, according to Sana Labs.

Says Mt. Sinai’s Jane Maksoud, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Mount Sinai Health System: “The profound shortage of intensive care healthcare workers and other ICU staff available to operate mechanical ventilators during a pandemic will be one of the most significant hurdles facing U.S. hospitals treating critically ill COVID-19 patients. I cannot express my gratitude enough for the work that this team is doing.”

Now that this pilot is up and running, Sana and the New York Academy of Sciences are working to expand the program to other hospitals in the New York City metropolitan area, and across the United States. Ultimately, an even more crucial need may arise if cases of COVID-19 explode in the world’s Developing countries.

“Project Florence is designed to deliver personalized learning at scale and we’re making it available for free to any hospital or emergency care unit in the U.S. in need of quickly upskilling nurses for work in the ICU,” said Joel Hellermark, founder and CEO of Sana Labs. The project is named for Florence Nightingale, the nursing pioneer. Sana Labs’ platform uses Artificial Intelligence to customize learning for individuals, improve retention of knowledge, and increase flexibility in training.

The Academy’s Ellis Rubinstein played a central role in bringing Sana and Mt. Sinai together for this initiative. “We recognized the important contribution Sana’s learning platform could make as the healthcare system in New York mobilized against COVID-19,” said Rubinstein. “As healthcare systems throughout the city, country, and world face scarcities of trained talent, we are prepared to use the global network of the New York Academy of Sciences to  link the Sana Labs team to those in need.”

“I’m very excited to bring this innovative approach to Mount Sinai hospitals to help advance the skillset of our nurses,” said Diane Adams, Chief Learning Officer at Mount Sinai Health System. “Not only are we advancing learning for our health care system, but we are also meeting the needs of our community during a particularly critical time across New York City, the United States and the rest of the world.”

The Academy has a strong background in rapid response to new developments in medicine and healthcare. As early as the mid-1940s, the Academy held a ground-breaking conference on antibiotics. In 1983, the Academy hosted the world’s first major conference on AIDS, just as the scientific community identified the virus that causes the disease. When the world became aware of a mysterious pneumonia called SARS in early 2003, the Academy quickly convened the first multi-sectoral meeting of scores of the world’s expert scientists and physicians from academia, government and the pharmaceutical industry. Six years later, in 2009, the Academy mounted a similar response to H1N1, the so-called swine influenza outbreak. In 2012, the Academy used its ability to convene diverse stakeholders to sponsor a conference exploring conflicts between scientists and biosecurity officials over research on the H5N1 influenza virus.

“We are very proud that the Academy can leverage its experience in the Life Sciences to make important contributions to world-wide efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rubinstein said, referring to the upskilling initiative as well as the Academy’s robust series of programs for sharing scientific developments on the novel coronavirus. 

For additional information on Sana Labs and Project Florence, please see: