The SHOWER SHIRT® Redefines Post-Surgical Hygiene: Lisa F. Crites

The SHOWER SHIRT® Redefines Post-Surgical Hygiene: Lisa F. Crites

We recently had the opportunity to interview Lisa F. Crites, the Founder of an innovative, water-resistant garment to support the home-medical apparel industry, The SHOWER SHIRT®. A former health/medical journalist and breast cancer survivor, Lisa soon realized the gap in water-resistant products for chest surgery patients in the market, which created an opportunity to design, invent, and develop a product which marked the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey.

With The SHOWER SHIRT®, Lisa F. Crites is committed to offering the post-surgical care everyone deserves while decreasing the chance of waterborne infections, in chest surgery patients due to non-sterile tap water. In this insightful interview, Lisa shares with us her career journey, the adversities she overcame over these years, the inspiration behind crafting her innovative product line, and achievements in her work.

Lisa’s Career Trajectory

We started the interview by asking, “Can you share your journey from a broadcast journalist to the inventor of The SHOWER SHIRT?”

Lisa shared, “I worked in broadcast journalism for many years. As a health/medical reporter, you interview a myriad of people, patients, doctors, surgeons, as well as individuals on the business side of healthcare. While working in that journalism genre, I also interviewed many breast cancer patients. Coincidentally, and soon after leaving television news, I too was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Spark Behind The SHOWER SHIRT®

Eager to learn more about the factors that influenced Lisa F. Crites in developing her innovative product, we asked, “What inspired you to create this product?”

She responded, “I quickly saw a need for a water-resistant product like The SHOWER SHIRT®. After my mastectomy surgery, my surgeon told me I would have surgical drains which could not get wet. Unfortunately, I did not realize the drains would be four feet in length, from my chest to my knees. I was also told I could not shower until the drains were removed.

I began researching water-resistant products for chest surgery patients, and nothing existed. I then spoke to many of the surgeons whom I knew and had interviewed as a journalist, and all agreed that a water-resistant product was a promising idea for not only mastectomy patients, but other chest surgery needs.”

Adding A Unique Value

The SHOWER SHIRT is a unique product in the healthcare market. Being intrigued to learn more about the unique features of Lisa F. Crites’ product, we inquired, “What sets it apart from other post-surgery solutions?”

Lisa F. Crites shared, “Before the invention of The SHOWER SHIRT®, women undergoing mastectomies either had to not shower at all for 1-3 weeks, or improvise protection, often using trash bags and duct tape, as there was no product on the market to address the issue. The SHOWER SHIRT® is the only water-resistant garment of its kind. A Class 1 Medical Device, the product is a patented, post-surgical shirt designed to protect multiple chest surgery populations, including patients with surgical drains, chemotherapy ports, and even dialysis catheters while showering.

The primary focus is to decrease the chances of waterborne illnesses in chest surgery patients. Tap water contains bacteria and pathogens which increase the chance of surgical site infections. The SHOWER SHIRT® is a product to help decrease the chances of infections from tap water.”

“However, the use and benefits of The SHOWER SHIRT® have extended well beyond just mastectomy patients. Renal dialysis patients and other patients with catheters, wound vacs, infusion pumps, central lines, external defibrillators, and chemo pumps can take advantage of the product, not to mention those undergoing surgeries such as abdominal, hernia, lung surgery, life-vest, cardio-thoracic surgery, rotator cuff surgery, and bariatric surgery, to name a few.

From a general chest surgery patient population perspective, there are more than one million patients in the US alone, who can benefit from The SHOWER SHIRT®. The product has been successfully commercialized for over twelve years, with thousands of surgical patients around the world benefiting from its unique, patented, design and construction. The SHOWER SHIRT® company has shipped the garment to more than 19 countries since its inception in 2011.” Lisa added.

Worth-Sharing Achievements

Lisa F. Crites

To learn about the events that Lisa F. Crites believes are her triumphs in her business, we asked, “What has been the most significant achievement for The SHOWER SHIRT since its inception?”

Lisa enthusiastically replied, “Most recently, I have been nominated as an inductee into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. Based on statistics, there are more patent applications and patents granted in the state of Florida, than any other state in the United States, so that is a great achievement for The SHOWER SHIRT® and our company. We have been an InnovateHER winner for my work in creating The SHOWER SHIRT®, which was an award for inventors who create products to enrich the lives of women.

The National InnovateHER series, sponsored by the Small Business Administration, Washington Post, and Microsoft, led us to travel as a guest of the U.S. State Department to present at WE-APEC in Singapore. We also received a 2015 Patient Innovation Award from

the University of Portugal, Catolica School of Business & Economics, and requested by Dubai ruler, King Sheik Mohammad, to present at the World Government Summit-Edge of Government exhibit in the UAE.”

Lisa F. Crites

Lisa F. Crites continued, “Additional international honors include a request from the London Science Museum to host The SHOWER SHIRT® for the museum’s Science Innovation Exhibit, which expands across 78 locations in Europe, where we are represented as one of the first Patient Innovation award series recipients. We have been featured in FORBES Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Readers Digest; FOX, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Lifetime TV’s, ‘The Balancing Act,’ for The SHOWER SHIRT® invention. We were also featured in Women Inventors & the Top 7-Percent, by Robert Bear, and recognized by Ivanhoe Broadcast News for ‘Women Inventors,’ airing in 72 television markets across the United States.”

A Never-Ending Responsibility

Being an entrepreneur is no easy task. To understand the perspective of Lisa F. Crites on this aspect, we asked, “As an entrepreneur and inventor, how would you describe your leadership style in managing your business and team?”

Lisa F. Crites replied, “Being an entrepreneur is a never-ending job. Being the owner of a start-up company, like The SHOWER SHIRT® company also seems like a never-ending responsibility.  We have patients who call us and need our product as soon as possible because they cannot shower after surgery. In some ways, hosting this product goes back to being in journalism, as it seems like I am on call 24 hours a day, nearly every day. Just as news needs to be printed, posted, broadcast, and communicated immediately, I am of the same belief with The SHOWER SHIRT®. Shower shirt orders need to be shipped the day of, and if not possible, the day after so patients can shower safely, as soon as possible.

I have much empathy for these patients, as I was one of them. I had no product to safely shower in, and another reason I am adamant about processing orders quickly. This is often why I say I am still working in journalism, as it is a continuous cycle, on call 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to get the job done, comparable to those days while working as a reporter.

Expanding The Product Line

Every business needs to adopt creativity and innovatively curated solutions to deliver nothing but the best. We asked, “How do you foster innovation and creativity within your organization to continue developing impactful products?”

Lisa F. Crites

Our products are extremely niched in terms of customer needs and brand awareness. We have chosen to stay within the chest surgery needs of showering. We have, however, expanded our product line to include additional colors and sizing so the product is not one size fits all.” Lisa replied.

Staying Connected

Technology is a vital element in any business, regardless of the industry. So, we inquired, “In what ways do you see technology, particularly in healthcare, influencing the future of post-surgery recovery products like The SHOWER SHIRT?”

Lisa F. Crites shared, “Our product is primarily an online product. So, technology is heavily involved in our sales. Additionally, we love social media in that there is a myriad of communities in the social media universe. One is the breast cancer communities which have heavily influenced our sales to date.”

Envisioning The Future

We further asked, “How do you envision the evolution of the healthcare apparel industry, and what role do you see The SHOWER SHIRT playing in it?”

Lisa F. Crites

Emphasizing their crucial role in reducing water-borne illnesses, Lisa replied, “I have had many doctors state that wound care continues to evolve. With that said, I believe that our company will continue to grow as patients will continue to be required to have surgery, thus, our product will continue to help patients when in need, to protect wounds from tap water, thus decreasing water-borne illnesses.”

Adaptability Amidst Adversities

While challenging phases are a part of every entrepreneur’s journey, overcoming them efficiently counts the most. So, we asked, “What have been some of the most significant challenges you have faced in bringing The SHOWER SHIRT to market, and how did you overcome them?

Lisa F. Crites replied, “It was exceedingly difficult being diagnosed with breast cancer, as I had watched many patients go through the disease and struggle, so I knew that my diagnosis was not going to be physically or mentally easy. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2009 and began this initiative within weeks of my bilateral mastectomy in June 2009 while undergoing complications and still in breast cancer treatment.

In summary, within a short timeframe, I had gone through a breast cancer diagnosis, mastectomy surgery, two life-threatening infections, four months of hyperbaric oxygen treatments, and six additional surgeries, and still brought The SHOWER SHIRT® to market in April 2011, (inclusive of a patent), which was exactly one year and ten months after the initial surgery.

With that said, I believe the hardest part of bringing the product to market was educating about the product. If you had not gone through any type of chest surgery, you would not know that the drains, chemotherapy ports, or catheters, would need protection.”

A Great Leap

We were curious to learn about a piece of business advice that stayed with Lisa F. Crites throughout her journey. So, we asked, “What is the most valuable piece of business advice you have received that has guided you in your entrepreneurial journey?”

Lisa F. Crites shared, “That, it is harder to bring a product to market which has never existed, vs. a product which exists, where you change it a certain percent and then relaunch. This was so helpful for me as I knew I was bringing a product to market which had never existed; thus, it was going to take a lot of diligence and fortitude.”

Maintaining A Balanced Approach, we asked Lisa F. Crites

We ended the session by asking, “How do you balance the need for continuous innovation with the demands of maintaining a successful and stable business operation?”

Lisa concluded, “I believe the primary need for innovation is the marketing and educational side of The SHOWER SHIRT® product, as marketing and media platforms are ever-changing, while scaling this company, and shipping to customers in multiple different counties is also ever changing. We have a lot of moving parts when it comes to ordering inventory, fulfilling, and then making sure we have a strong presence online.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis of breast cancer amongst women around the world is not decreasing, but increasing; my guess is that our company will be around for years to come, helping a multitude of patient populations decrease the chances of water-borne illnesses, for years to come.” 

Follow Lisa F. Crites on LinkedIn.

Visit The SHOWER SHIRT® on to learn more.

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