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  • Zach Johnson

Deep Empathy Leads to Safer & More Dignified Psychiatric Treatment - The Story of JT Shoe Stays

JT shoe stays being used as shoe laces for psychiatric hospital inpatient.
JT Shoe Stays

In the realm of inpatient psychiatric care, every detail matters – from the clinical treatment to the safety measures put in place to ensure the well-being of patients. Among these seemingly small yet crucial details, shoelaces (or lack thereof) may not immediately spring to mind. However, John Thomas, the innovator behind JT Shoe Stays, developed a unique solution that safeguards patients while preserving their dignity.

John spent over 35 years as a psych tech understanding the intricacies and nuances of patient safety in these settings. As he says, “If I'm an expert at anything, it's behavioral inpatient environments.” And the heart of his mission has been to uphold patients' dignity while ensuring their safety.

“Dignity has really been a tender spot for me with patients. I always try to preserve as much of it as I can.”

(The patient experience 1. Mini-lace, laceless, velcro/besser strap, hardbottom sock)

The Problem

John noticed a pervasive issue in inpatient psychiatric care when traditional shoelaces posed a potential safety risk. The standard procedure often involves confiscating the laces, an act that can sometimes aggravate patients and chip away at their dignity.

We're dealing with people on the worst day of their life. These patients go through admissions, get their shoelaces removed and then spend the next few days flopping around in open shoes. Who wants to do that?! I saw patients trying to alleviate the problem themselves. One was really ingenious. The patient used paper straw wrappers and he twisted that up and made like a string out of it and was able to adjust it to tie the knot so it wouldn't slip through the shoe eyelet.”

That experience stuck with John for a long time. He saw the need for a solution. Thus, the concept of JT Shoe Stays was born.

Nurse showing how to create a shoelace that is safe for a psych hospital.
The OLD way. Time-intensive DIY

The Solution: JT Shoe Stays

Unlike typical laces, alternative products, care teams creating their own laces (see photo), or expensive velcro straps, JT Shoe Stays are not only more cost-effective, but they are also more efficient and considerate of the patient's experience. The product is sleek and straightforward to use, designed with patient comfort and safety in mind. Upon admission, when traditional shoelaces are removed, JT Shoe Stays are installed, offering a smooth transition. I asked John to reflect on the journey. He laughs and says, “Well, you got this guy who was a psych tech for 35 years. What the hell does he know about business? I had the idea that this can work. The first version was plastic. I was testing all kinds of materials, even cardboard in the beginning. Eventually, I came across a neoprene knee brace and I thought, let me try this. It was perfect! So I had the material, but I still needed a way to manufacture them. I had to go out and buy dies and a press machine. It was a risk, but they work.”

Positive Feedback

Feedback from both patients and staff has been overwhelmingly positive. Patients appreciate the comfort, while the staff find them easy to install. Once facilities begin implementing them, they’re lifetime customers.

John shared anecdotes from his visits to facilities, recounting encounters with patients who use his product. The convenience and safety, combined with its non-invasive nature, have helped preserve patients' dignity and comfort during challenging times.

Adoption and Impact

John had a unique experience moving from “prototype” to “adoption” in the form of a Shark Tank style pitch to UHS. As a UHS employee, in 2020 John was invited to present his concept to all UHS hospital CEO’s. That event gave him a massive platform to further hone and develop his product.

John revealed a significant insight from his experience: "From my testing all through different places, if a hospital has ~3,500 admissions in a year, they will need shoe stays for about 1,000 patients." This figure underscores the potential impact that JT Shoe Stays could have in psychiatric care facilities. Some patients arrive with the appropriate footwear, but for those who do not, the ability to offer a simple, affordable, safe, and dignified solution makes a big difference in a patient’s experience.

A Passionate Mission

John's dedication never wavered. He is a believer in the power of small, tangible solutions to make big differences. His product, crafted from a need he identified during his many years in psychiatric care, is a testament to his commitment to patient safety and dignity.

"I had the idea that this could work," John said, recalling his journey. Even though it involved taking risks and making substantial investments, John knew it was worth it. "They really work," he said. "So it's cool. It's like my little contribution to the cause."

Reach Out

To learn more about JT Shoe Stays and how they can benefit your facility, visit or reach out to John directly below.

John Thomas - CEO, JT Shoe Stays

John Thomas, President, JT Shoe Stays, LinkedIn Contributor

Zach Johnson, VP Business Development, VisibleHand

Zach Johnson, VP Business Development, VisibleHand, LinkedIn.




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