Crystal Allen ’18, RN, is innovating ways for healthcare systems to transform their medical waste into sustainable educational resources.
Crystal Allen ’18, RN, is an alchemist. Working in the field of clinical informatics, her job is to invent new ways to make healthcare more streamlined, efficient, and cost-effective. For the past four years, she has been exercising a peculiar kind of magic: transforming medical waste into sustainable educational resources.
She begins by collecting “medical surplus.” This catch-all term refers to medical items that, other than being past their expiration dates, are in perfect condition. Hospitals across the country dispose of these unused supplies in varying ways. But, according to a landmark report published by the National Academy of Medicine in 2012, medical surplus contributes to $130 billion in “inefficiently delivered services” every year.
Where hospitals make waste, Crystal sees opportunity. She collects expired gloves, catheters, ACE bandages, syringes, sutures, and countless other tools of the trade — all in their original packaging — and finds them new homes.
In spring 2019, Crystal donated over $9,000 worth of supplies to the Elms College School of Nursing. In addition to the basics, she also included special items that the college can’t always access, like a working leg brace and arm slings.
“It gives students a whole new experience,” said Crystal, who earned her bachelor of science in nursing from Elms in 2018. “If they can touch and feel different equipment before using it in real life, that’s beneficial.”
By diversifying the college’s medical inventory, she increases the realism of the simulation labs.
What started as a passion project evolved into a fully-fledged MBA capstone. As a student in the healthcare innovation track, Crystal completed a series of intensive workshops that emphasize entrepreneurial thinking. Her long term goal is to formalize the cycle of collecting and redistributing medical surplus so that hospitals, nonprofits, and institutions of higher education across the country can benefit.
After initial conversations with Baystate executives,, Crystal has already identified a way to implement her idea that reduces overall waste and doesn’t cost a penny more.
“This can have a financial impact on healthcare,” Crystal said. “It’s my little piece of how I’m helping the world.”