Bevin: The Problem Solver
Date Published: Monday, May 10, 2021
Dr. Bevin Cohen: 00:00
If I had a billboard in Times Square, I would use it to remind people that people have a lot more in common than we think on the surface. And when you really get to know people, you realize our common humanity, and you might feel more inclined to want to reach out and help your neighbor. I don't know. It's not really slogan-y, it's more preachy!
My name is Bevin Cohen. I am a nurse and an epidemiologist, and I'm the Director for the Center for Nursing Research and Innovation at the Mount Sinai Health System. I conduct my own research on all different things related to the delivery of nursing care to patients. I also work with clinical nurses who have the most amazing ideas, and I help them develop those ideas to directly benefit patients. Solving problems and making health care delivery more seamless, more patient-focused, and with better outcomes is definitely at the core of every project that we do.
In the United States we have a really amazing health care system—the best innovations in patient care, the best innovations in new diagnostics, new drug development, new surgical techniques. But one place where we fall a little short in this country is how we actually deliver that care to patients and who has access to that care. Equity comes in many forms. It's not just about money and who's paying for care. It's also about how we invite people in and how we make people feel comfortable with accessing care. And this even goes beyond just being able to make an appointment and pay for it. You could also think about when appointments are available. Well, generally during the day nine to five. Not everybody has the ability to take off of work and get into a nine to five appointment. So it's really complex.
My understanding of systems through my background in epidemiology helps me understand how to apply different data or different interventions or different research questions. But my training as a nurse helps me know what questions to ask and where are the ways that we could do better in our health care system. So certainly I think that nurses do get a lot of public credit for being excellent clinicians and really being the most trusted member of the health care workforce. But most people don't realize that there are many, many, many nurses who are also researchers, some of the leading researchers in their respective fields.
What makes nursing different from all of the other health disciplines is that nurses have always focused on holistic patient care, not just about treating a specific symptom or a specific disease, but it's based on treating an entire patient. And that includes not only their physical health, but their mental health, their emotional health. Every individual patient has their own story, their own narrative, their own struggles, their own victories, and having that face time and that understanding of what patients are going through and what are the system-level factors that are affecting their care really informs the research work that I do. I really like listening to clinical nurses who say, this is a problem that's going on for my patients, and I have an idea of how I think we can make this better. Let's test it and see if things can get better.
So when I think about what are the most important changes that we need to make as a health care system, I really think about just stripping down the bureaucracy. I think many patients who have had to seek health care for anything other than just an annual wellness visit have probably experienced some form of frustration in trying to get an appointment with a specialist, trying to have appropriate follow-up. It simply should not be that hard.
I think sometimes when we get into healthcare policy debates, we come at it from a place of fear. We fear that by having a more equitable system, we who have access might be giving up something, that it's sort of this zero-sum game. But I think when you look at the data and when you look at the individual person and really make a human connection with them, you realize that rising tides really do lift all boats. And that there's nothing to fear about striving for more equity and better health care for all in our society.
The reason that I love my job is because I truly believe that things can be better and we must do better. We know that we have amazing health care professionals, amazing clinicians, and amazing researchers who do great work every day and do their very best for patients, but we know that we can do better. And I think that that's what really motivates me to get up every day and continue doing this work is that we know that not everybody is being served equitably. We know that there are ways that we can make improvements, and we have to keep incrementally pushing the ball forward to have a better and more equitable system.