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"I’ve Always Considered Myself a 'MacGyver' Nurse": How One Woman Is Propelling Healthcare Forward
Johnson & Johnson knows all about the great impact nurses can have—like Roxana Reyna. For National Nurses Week, she shares the innovative ways she cares for the tiniest patients.
Roxana Reyna, RN

urses play an essential part in healthcare, but many of us don't really know the true scope of their contributions.

Johnson & Johnson is helping change that.

Since 2002, when the company launched the Campaign for Nursing’s Future, it has not only publicized the important role of nurses but it has also helped recruit new ones and encouraged those already in the profession to continue to expand their skills.

And, today, that nursing commitment is evolving to shine a spotlight on how nurses, through their innovation, are helping drive better health outcomes.

Wonder how a single nurse can make a big impact in the medical field? Meet Roxana Reyna.


Roxana Reyna: "I’m the first person in my family to be a nurse, but I think the art of healing is in my DNA.

I was born in Hebbronville, a small town in Texas, and grew up hearing stories about my great-grandmother, who was a folk healer. She'd mix up lotions made from herbs and mud and travel to ranches in the area to treat injuries and wounds. I believe this family connection helps explain why I’m so passionate about what I do. It’s a calling.

Some people don’t think of nurses as helping drive advances in medicine—but they’d be wrong.

For the past 20 years, I’ve helped develop patient care solutions at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi. Although I’m a skin and wound care specialist, not a folk healer, I have a similar do-it-yourself approach. I've always considered myself a 'MacGyver' nurse who creates and alters products for my patients when what we need isn’t available. Sometimes it’s as simple as rolling up a blanket to better position medical equipment for a tiny baby, but other times, it’s much more complex.

Putting My MacGyver Skills Into Practice for Tiny Patients

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Roxana Reyna (right) with a fellow nurse on her team, Kirby Garcia, at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas

I’m a Registered Nurse, Certified in Neonatal Intensive Care (RNC-NIC) and Certified in Wound, Ostomy & Continence. I also recently earned a master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner. One of my areas of expertise is wound care of the omphalocele—a rare birth defect in which an infant’s intestines, along with other abdominal organs, stick outside the body through a hole in the belly button area. A translucent sac of tissue, or membrane, holds them together—and is at risk of tearing and infection.

With certain omphaloceles, called giant omphaloceles (GO), the defect is too large to surgically put back into the belly right away. Babies sometimes have to wait close to a year for corrective surgery because the stomach muscles have to grow and be able to stretch, and the abdominal cavity has to be large enough to fit the organs.

In the meantime, the fragile membrane covering the exposed intestines must be protected. Different techniques have been used by surgeons with mixed outcomes, and since I’ve always been a problem-solver, I did a lot of research to see if there could be another approach to help treat the defect.

In 2008, I came up with something novel for our omphalocele patients by combining different types of wound dressings to promote healing and keep the tissue clean and stable until surgery could be performed. I'm lucky in that I've always found my hospital to be a supportive environment, so when I presented the idea to our pediatric surgeons—backed up by a lot of data and literature—they agreed to give it a shot.

That original giant omphalocele patient, Kayla, is now 10 years old. Not long ago I saw Kayla and her mom, Rosa. They both hugged me so tight and it just pierced my heart!

We first used the dressings on a newborn named Kayla who had a giant omphalocele, and the new treatment helped keep her wound safe until it was less risky to have surgery. With this method, we’ve seen babies with omphalocele return home as soon as 11 days after birth, whereas before, a baby might have had to stay in the hospital for weeks or months. Given these good results, our team wanted to spread the word about the dressings, so I co-authored a paper for the Journal of Pediatric Surgery.

This is just one of the many cases that our team has worked on to come up with creative solutions for our patients. And I want to let other nurses know they can collaborate with physicians and each other to have great outcomes at their hospitals, too.

What It Means to Me to Be a Nurse Innovator

Being a nurse has brought with it many opportunities, but one particularly amazing one was when I was invited to the White House as an innovator in my field in 2014. The event was the first-ever Maker Faire, and I was part of an initiative that recognized nurses' inventive spirits. It was great to meet President Obama, but it was even more exciting to be honored alongside robotics engineers, inventors of 3-D printers and others who are pushing innovation forward. Today, there are more and more programs that help support nurses in not only developing innovative solutions for their patients but also in bringing those solutions to life.

Being a nurse can be very hard but also incredibly rewarding. I love educating others, and collaborating with the people I meet. It feels like I have an innate gift—and wherever that takes me, I can go.

That original giant omphalocele patient, Kayla, is now 10 years old. Not long ago I saw Kayla and her mom, Rosa. They both hugged me so tight and it just pierced my heart! It also felt like a precious reward for some of the sacrifices nurses make—including, sometimes, leaving our own kids to take care of other children who need us."

Hear more from Roxana—and learn more about Kayla's early treatment—in this video:


Want to Be a Nurse Who Can Change the World?
Meet other nurses like Roxana—and learn about schools, scholarships and specialties at Discover Nursing.