Cara Lunsford, RN, Vice President of Community at Relias and founder of HOLLIBLU, created a community-building social app as an all-in-one resource for nurses to support, collaborate, connect, network, and guide each other.
Coming from a place where she saw many missing elements that were so desperately needed in the nursing profession, she sought to create a channel where nurses can grow in their careers and their community.
With the announcement of Nurse.com’s acquisition of HOLLIBLU, this Q&A highlights Lunsford’s passion for building the nursing community, her experiences in the nursing profession, and goals for the future.
Q: What motivated you to create this app?
A: Initially, I would say that the inspiration to create a supportive nursing community came when I was at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. I had created a committee with some of my colleagues called the Supportive Care Committee.
It was really aimed at trying to help nurses through the everyday struggles — the traumas that we face, the grief that we deal with. All those things and how they weigh on you can affect your day-to-day life.
It was a successful committee. And then I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could do this in a much bigger way? If we could reach more people?
I then went into administration, and I was a director of nursing. I was dealing with staffing issues — trying to find nurses. I used to joke and say, “Where’s the watering hole for nurses? They must be congregating somewhere.”
So that’s where it initially came from. It came out of a need.
Q: What were your initial goals or visions for nurses who joined?
A: Before you can really address any other issues in healthcare, you have to address what is happening with the nurses. What do they need?
That was something really, really important to me. I wanted to make sure that when they came to this place, they felt like it was built for them — that it was truly built by a nurse and for nurses.
The goal or the dream was that it would be the one-stop shop. They would come there for everything they could need throughout their professional careers. If they need peer support, they need mentoring, they need education, they need career advancement, they need career opportunities — that it would all be there in this one place.
Q: What topics do you see posted most often on the app? Are there any limits to what nurses can share?
A: When new people come onto the app, I oftentimes find that that people will say something like, “Hey, I’m having this struggle, or I’m worried about this,” or “I just took my NCLEX, and I had one hundred and eight questions. Is that good or is that bad?” They’re wanting feedback from their community.
A lot of it really does seem to be around support or looking for opportunities — unconventional opportunities like, “I’m tired of the bedside. What’s available in nursing that can still allow me to be a nurse?” I think that nurses are looking for a way to stay in their profession, and I see that a lot in their questions.
We realize that nurses are multidimensional in their lives — in who they are as people. They’re a mom or a dad. They have hobbies and interests and other things they’re doing aside from nursing.
Those other things are what help them to thrive, so we have to be able to support people holistically in order to help them thrive professionally.
Because if they’re not thriving in their lives or they don’t have things that bring them joy, they’re not going to be able to keep going back and doing a really, really difficult job. So they can talk about anything and everything.
Q: How did your community help nurses weather the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: So I like to think the app as more than just a piece of technology, because as a company, we really tried to do a lot of things during COVID, whether it was to support people through bringing them food or doing a survey.
We ended up doing a survey of about 1,300 nurses, and it was one of the first nationwide surveys that was done. We shared what was happening with nurses on the front lines a couple months into COVID — giving them a voice.
We had someone in our company who did wellness checks. Literally all she did was call new people from the app.
People would pick up and they said, “Wait, you’re calling from the app I signed up for?” She said, “I’m calling from HOLLIBLU. And I just want to know how you’re doing.”
That was a game changer for a lot of people. And that was really the change we wanted to see. We wanted to be more than a piece of technology. We wanted to be a true nursing community.
Q: What initially drew you to Relias and Nurse.com to collaborate?
A: The thing that I appreciated the most was that our missions really seem to be aligned. What I loved about Relias’ mission is “to measurably improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of society and those who care for them.”
How do you not align yourself with that mission? That spoke to me. I thought, “That’s a company that I think can help me do the work I want to do.” I think Relias and Nurse.com will help us achieve our mission and our vision.
Q: What do you envision for the future for the app?
A: I think that our app is a bit of the nurse soul and that is infused with Nurse.com. Nurse.com has a 30-year legacy, and they’ve gone through so many iterations — starting out as a magazine — and I feel like they’re coming full circle.
Now, we’re kind of bringing them back to their roots but with an element of technology that helps them reach more people. That’s the benefit of technology and social networking — you can just reach more people and engage with more people. And I think that it really is about Nurse.com too — bringing back its roots — but with even more access.
By joining together, we have the power to bring together 30 years of legacy service to nurses, including education and collaboration. Having that support, along with this strong nursing community that we have been building, we’re able to come together and create some real change within the industry.
Interested in connecting with other nurses? Explore the Nurse.com community.