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Nurses as Innovators

The field of nursing is deeply rooted in problem-solving. Nurses face circumstances that require quick thinking and creative solutions on a daily basis. Their actions impact the lives of patients and family members.

These day-to-day contributions to healthcare prove that nurses are innovators, but are they being given a platform to expand upon their knowledge and skills?

How Nurses’ Contributions Are Improving Patient Care

An increasing demand within the patient population is optimal delivery of care. Patients and their family members want to know that they’re receiving the best care in the best facility. This not only includes the physical care patients get from the care team, but it also encompasses efficiency of care. Technological advances in patient records allow for easier access to critical medical information. Similar improvements in workflow solutions optimize the care delivery continuum.

One example of the technological contributions in healthcare was highlighted in a blog post by Kelly Larrabee Robke, RN, MBA, MS. At a HIMSS Innovation in Nursing Practice panel, Chief Nursing Optimization Officer of Mercy Health System, Betty Jo Rocchio, shared how voice-activated charting in electronic medical records (EMRs) and the use of dictation software arose from front-line nurse “workarounds” that had likely developed informally to save steps or improve safety.

Another innovative solution Robke shared occurred at University of Pennsylvania Health System. A nurse-initiated procedural intervention revealed that patients experienced fewer medication discrepancies and a lower likelihood of medication errors when a duo of RNs took the time to review discharge instructions and the medications being prescribed.

The positive impact on patient outcomes resulted in the health system implementing a “discharge time out” process, allowing for a thorough review of patients’ next steps. While this particular solution was focused more on face-to-face care than technology, it reinforces the integral role nurses play in optimal delivery of care.

Balancing Technology With the Human Touch

Innovation is closely associated with technology, something Bonnie Clipper, DNP, RN, MA, MBA, CENP, FACHE, recognizes as a crucial component of nurse education. In an interview with Robke, she shared that, “Nurses must become tech savvy and understand emerging innovations, whether in new technologies, models of care or care continuum alternatives. This will require us to be nimble in order to educate four million existing nurses and make the strategic changes to nursing school curricula that will allow nurses to pivot quickly into a higher tech world where they leverage more technologies even faster in their nursing practice.”

Dr. Clipper lists artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics as two data-driven initiatives that will have the greatest impact on patient care, whether via patient monitoring, EMR documentation or lab results. However, she cautions against leaning too heavily on technology as solutions continue to improve.

“Our challenge as nurses is to continue to be the compassionate, trusted, empathetic caregivers that we are, while incorporating more technology into the patient care space. We must be mindful to balance our pursuit of the science of nursing with the critical need to sustain our craft of caring. We must not lose the human touch, connection and personal aspect of patient care.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

No matter the industry, innovation is one of the pillars of success, with idea generation ideally taking place at all levels in the organization, not just the top. Bill Gates is quoted as saying, “At Microsoft there are lots of brilliant ideas but the image is that they all come from the top. I’m afraid that’s not quite right.”

Nurses need to be given the opportunity to promote their ideas to a wider audience. They deserve to be recognized — and celebrated — as leaders within the healthcare community and the patient populations they serve. The American Nurses Association (ANA) is just one organization fostering this path with its dedication to building a culture of innovation in nursing. The framework the ANA has developed includes a three-pronged approach:

  1. Cultivate and inspire future nurse innovators
  2. Highlight and celebrate nursing innovation
  3. Ignite nursing innovation

Through live events, award opportunities and a new podcast collaboration between the ANA and Johnson & Johnson, the ANA’s efforts are creating an environment in which nurses can thrive.

In order to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive healthcare market, hospitals and health systems must be open to ideas that will improve efficiency, reduce costs and improve patient outcomes. If given a seat at the table, nurses can be at the forefront of innovative solutions that achieve those goals.

Learn more about La Salle University’s online RN to BSN program.


American Nurses Association: Nurses Are Incredible Problem-Solvers

BD: How Creative Problem-Solving Tactics Become Nursing Innovations

BD: Dynamics of Innovation at the Point of Care: An Interview With Dr. Bonnie Clipper

American Nurses Association: Innovation in Nursing and Healthcare

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