Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Blog - Calling All Nurses To Look Inward And Embrace Innovation 4437

Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Blog - Calling All Nurses To Look Inward And Embrace Innovation


Change begins with a single idea. But all too often, great ideas don’t make it out of the breakroom.

But what if you knew today that your idea or innovation would enhance your workplace setting, improve patient outcomes, or potentially save someone’s life? Would you take a chance on yourself and believe in your expertise and desire to improve the status quo? ANA Innovation Design Strategist Olivia Lemberger, PhD, RN, CHSE, NPD-BD, hopes nurses everywhere will ask themselves those questions before they dismiss their ideas as small or insignificant.

“We are at such a critical moment in health care,” she says. “We need nurses to step into innovation, amplify their voices, and lean into the value of their knowledge. Because the future of our health care environment needs engaged individuals who are willing to innovate and create new realities.”

Why Nurses Make Great Innovators
Nurses recognize and solve problems every day. Innovations often stem from existing issues. Someone recognizes a need for change and develops a solution that addresses the problem in a new and meaningful way.

“As a nurse, you connect the dots within the health care ecosystem in a unique way,” Olivia says. You understand workflows, know how to prioritize resources, and maximize the environment to provide optimal care. You are also acutely aware of the needs of colleagues and patients. “With that level of understanding, it speaks to the value and depth of nurses’ expertise and explains why nurses are natural innovators.”

But what puts nurses in the best position to innovate, according to Olivia, is empathy. It’s the reason nursing has been the most trusted profession for decades.

“Empathy allows you to lean into the challenging and vulnerable moments and understand patients’ needs. It’s the main driver for improving patient outcomes and ensures patients are seen and heard,” she says. “But recognizing the needs of others is directly connected to innovation.”

How Nurses are Already Innovating
Nurses are experts at workarounds or "MacGyvering" solutions. It's important to realize that these workarounds can lead to future innovations. “This is happening across the country in every patient setting,” Olivia says. “Nurses are innovating for equity, dignity, and advancing global health outcomes. When nurses innovate, they simultaneously generate new possibilities for the future of our profession.”

She mentions two innovative nurses who received public attention for making a difference:
  • Jonathan Bartels, a palliative care nurse liaison, created The Medical Pause, a moment of silence after a patient’s death. It’s a time-efficient and non-cost intervention that helps the medical team and the patient’s family find closure and cope with feelings of distress and loss. One study found that incorporating The Pause after a stressful medical simulation reduced stress reactivity and enhanced resilience in health care providers. To learn more about The Pause, listen to the See You Now Podcast episode, Pause for a Moment.
  • Martha Phillips, an ER nurse, was featured in The Washington Post after she noticed that sexual assault victims often leave the hospital wearing only scrubs — their undergarments typically collected for forensic evidence. She wanted to restore dignity for these patients and raise awareness of the issue on social media. Before long, she collected enough donated bras and underwear to last the hospital a year. After that, the hospital committed to buying appropriate undergarments for these patients.

Finding and Using Available Resources for Innovation
For many nurses, bringing innovation to light may seem complicated or overwhelming. Fortunately, resources are available that can help you every step of the way — from how to protect your idea to avenues for funding.

Many organizations and associations provide education, guidance, and social networking for innovative professionals. Great resources for innovation may include:
Your employer

If you have an idea you’d like to bring forward, a great place to start is with your leadership. Many employers offer programs specific to employee-driven innovation. Ask your manager or director if they can point you to programs or resources your organization provides. If they aren’t sure, reach out to the human resources (HR) department who may connect you to the commercialization office (if you’re in a health care system) or clinical engineering office (if you work in an academic center).

“Your initial goal should be to protect your intellectual property, your idea,” Olivia says. She recommends asking HR if they have a policy that clearly states their intellectual property protection for somebody looking to bring forward an idea. “Not every innovation needs a patent, but it’s important to understand the value of your innovation and not just to give your idea away.”  

ANA Innovation offers resources and events centered around education, inspiration, and funding for nurses at every step of the innovation process. Resources you’ll find at ANA include:
  • Connection with other innovators through our Innovation Lounges, which are interactive conversations showcasing nurse and health care innovation, and the Innovation Advisory Committees comprised of nurses and individuals involved in innovative initiatives who are interested in growing their innovation knowledge.
  • Funding for innovation through our Innovation Awards (for nurse-led innovation that improves patient and safety outcomes), the Innovation Sandbox (which provides micro-funding for very early-stage ideas), and NursePitch™ (an interactive event featuring nurses who want to share their creative solutions and innovations).
  • Innovation-focused education, including our resource guides and Innovation Accelerator, a free 9-month course that invites nurses to explore multiple content areas related to innovation
  • Inspiration for innovation through our blog, newsletter, and See You Now podcast, which shares inspiring storytelling about nurses addressing challenging health care problems

How to Feed Your Innovative Soul
Innovation is a human capacity that anyone can cultivate, says Olivia. If you are open to it and engage in learning about innovation, you can embrace new ideas and become a leader in this space.

Olivia has tips for nurses interested in innovation:
  • Expand your sources of input: Keep expanding your knowledge and network. Be active on LinkedIn. Seek professional development that focuses on innovation in health care. Engage in communities outside of nursing to see how others are innovating — attend conferences and read journals outside of the nursing profession.
  • Embrace different thinking practices: Ideas rarely follow a clear path from point A to point B. Try brainstorming, journaling, and mind-mapping. Expand divergent thinking strategies and embrace the unknown.
  • Network with innovators: Innovation can feel isolating, but you aren’t alone. Look for communities of support who want to help you develop your ideas. Remember, many nurses are already innovating.
  • Don’t give up:  Innovating takes a lot of energy and time. You’ll need hard work and sweat to succeed. And you are likely to face challenges and failures. Failure is a normal part of the innovation process and should be viewed as moving one step closer to innovation success.
How are you embracing innovation? Share with us in our discussion.


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Blog Quality of Life 04/20/2023 3:13pm CDT

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Your life is full and your work is often stressful. This domain focuses on the elements that improve the quality of your life: including resiliency and preventing burnout, restoring joy, and achieving a positive work/life balance.