Resilience and Personal Experience Drive Passion for Patient Advocacy: Meet Jessica Prothe 

Meet Jessica Prothe, a remarkable individual who has proven her commitment to nursing through her active involvement with ANA-Illinois. Jessica is a registered nurse and a graduate nursing student at Northern Illinois University, located just outside of Chicago in the greater Chicagoland area. Living in a bustling region known for its dynamic healthcare landscape, Jessica’s passion for nursing and patient advocacy led her to join the American Nurses Association in January 2023. 

With over a decade of experience as a nurse, Jessica has an impressive background in frontline nursing. Prior to becoming a registered nurse, she worked as a Patient Care Technician (PCT) in a step-down ICU during her nursing school years. Transitioning into her nursing career, Jessica spent several years working in medical-surgical units and pediatric wards, fulfilling her passion for providing direct patient care. She took pride in being a frontline nurse and found fulfillment in her role. 

However, Jessica’s journey took an unexpected turn when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Complications from breast implant surgery arose and forced her to resign. Despite this challenging setback, Jessica’s resilience and determination propelled her forward. Her personal experience with the complexities and consequences of breast implant surgery sparked her interest in becoming a nurse patient advocate. 

Personal Journey Ignites a Passion for Advocacy and Transforming Healthcare 

With over a decade of experience in the healthcare industry, Jessica’s journey has been marked by resilience, challenges, and a profound dedication to enhancing healthcare practices. 

In 2020 she was forced to resign from nursing due to medical complications arising from breast implant surgery. “I was so sick, I had to quit my job. I had twelve doctors, I was dying under their care.” This pivotal event in her life fueled her determination to advocate for herself and others facing similar challenges. Despite her illness, Jessica remained steadfast in her pursuit of knowledge and continuously sought ways to improve her health and advocacy efforts. 

Seeking support and guidance as she reentered the nursing field, Jessica discovered ANA-Illinois, which provided her with the resources she was looking for. Engaging in ANA-Illinois events, educational opportunities, and webinars became an integral part of her journey. She found that the organization was not only able to direct her to specialized areas of interest but also connected her with conferences and webinars tailored to her unique needs. Regardless of one’s nursing specialty, ANA-Illinois offers valuable support and a sense of community. 

During her battle with sickness, Jessica never stopped learning and researching innovative approaches to advance healthcare practices. Her personal experience became the catalyst for her dedication to creating awareness and implementing change. Through her own journey, she discovered the importance of early intervention, comprehensive screening tools, and the need for healthcare providers to inquire about implantable devices to ensure patient safety and well-being. 

As Jessica continues her advocacy work and pursues graduate studies, she remains committed to making a positive impact on the healthcare system. Through her involvement with ANA-Illinois, she has found a supportive network of mentors and like-minded individuals who share her passion for transforming healthcare. Her unwavering determination and resilient spirit serve as an inspiration to nurses and healthcare professionals alike, demonstrating the transformative power of personal experiences in driving meaningful change. 

From Personal Experience to Pioneering Research 

“When I went to grad school in 2021, I learned how to think about my experience and transformed what had happened to me into an opportunity to help others.” 

For Jessica, women’s health has always been at the forefront of her career. But after her near-death health scare, advocacy for women’s health, particularly relating to breast implants and breast cancer became her focal point. She has gone to events dedicated to breast cancer awareness, and the risks of breast implants. Most notably, she has advocated for aesthetic flat closure as an alternative to breast reconstruction involving breast implant surgery. As well as engaged in advocacy for legislation, safety, and staffing issues in nursing. 

“Nobody asked me what was in my body, how long they’d been there, or if they were recalled.” 

Reflecting on her own experience, Jessica emphasizes the lack of inquiry into what was inside her body. This realization spurred her to take action and lead a research team from Northern Illinois University, shaping the landscape of women’s healthcare. Their primary focus is on developing a screening tool called Universal Screening for Implantable Devices, designed to detect implants of all types within a patient’s body. Alongside their research and development efforts, Jessica and her team recently published an article in the nursing journal Plastic and Aesthetic Nursing on this topic, raising further awareness. 

Currently, the team is actively exploring ways to integrate the screening device’s data into electronic health record updates. Furthermore, Jessica seeks to enhance the questionnaires used by medical professionals, aiming for more comprehensive and detailed assessments. Existing electronic health records typically feature a generic question regarding implantable devices, without delving into the specifics. By updating and enriching these questionnaires, she hopes to address the crucial assessment questions often overlooked in healthcare practices. 

Jessica’s multifaceted approach to advocacy encompasses not only vocal advocacy but also groundbreaking research and practical solutions. Her dedication to transforming women’s healthcare is evident in her work. By challenging the status quo and emphasizing the importance of thorough inquiry, Jessica aims to empower patients and facilitate proactive interventions that can save lives. 

Empowering Women’s Healthcare Choices and Advocating for Access

There are many ways to create impactful change in healthcare, and Jessica is doing them all. She has been at the frontlines of nursing and women’s healthcare advocacy, leaving a lasting impression. 

“Our women population is struggling right now,” Jessica highlighted. Breast cancer awareness and comprehensive breast health examinations have become increasingly important topics in recent years. However, finding doctors who possess the necessary knowledge, experience, and willingness to believe patients can be a challenge.

Through her own personal experience, Jessica has witnessed the extent of this problem within the healthcare system, which has fueled her determination to become the advocate she is today. 

Jessica’s advocacy work revolves around promoting women’s choices. “Our aim is to empower women and provide them with options, and the support we’ve received has been tremendous.” She mentions a significant milestone in New York, where a bill was passed and signed into law. It requires most insurance companies to cover the costs of breast reconstruction or chest reconstruction. Formally, the law only included breast reconstruction after a mastectomy or partial mastectomy, but now includes chest wall reconstruction. The law now also mentions aesthetic flat closure as specifically included in “chest wall reconstruction”.  Additionally, even the TV show, The Simpsons have joined the cause, featuring the character Dr. Sage, who appears on the show periodically to raise awareness for breast cancer and body positivity. Dr. Sage can be seen most often during October, as a tribute to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

ANA-Illinois Empowers Jessica Prothe as an Advocate for Women’s Healthcare 

ANA-Illinois has played a significant role in Jessica’s journey as an advocate for women’s healthcare and has provided her with invaluable access to mentors and resources, shaping her advocacy efforts and amplifying her impact. 

Within ANA-Illinois, the mentor-mentee system has proven to be instrumental in connecting Jessica with experienced nurses who have guided her along her path. Through this mentorship program, Jessica has been able to navigate the complexities of the healthcare industry, learn from those who have paved the way before her, and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in women’s healthcare advocacy.

Collaboration within ANA-Illinois has been an integral part of Jessica’s journey as well. She has had the opportunity to connect with nurses from diverse specialties, creating a rich and dynamic environment for learning. These connections within the organization have allowed Jessica to engage in meaningful discussions, exchange ideas, and form partnerships with like-minded professionals who share her passion for improving women’s healthcare. 

Jessica Prothe’s story is a testament to the transformative power of personal experiences in driving meaningful change. Her resilience, dedication, and collaborative spirit serve as an inspiration to nurses and healthcare professionals, reinforcing the importance of advocacy and the role that organizations like ANA-Illinois play in fostering positive change in healthcare practices. By continuing to champion women’s healthcare and empower patients, Jessica is making a lasting impact on the lives of countless individuals and the broader healthcare community.