Karen Innocent, DNP, RN, CRNP, ANP-BC, CMSRN
Executive Director of Continuing Education
Wolters Kluwer - Health Learning, Research & Practice
My colleague, Denise Felsenstein, tested an intervention during her Doctor of Nursing practice program that made a considerable difference in improving access to care for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered individuals in a community in Minneapolis, MN. What was this innovation? It wasn’t a new electronic medical records system. It wasn’t a mobile app, and it certainly didn’t involve virtual reality or artificial intelligence! It was a sign with an image of a rainbow that simply read, “All are welcome.” This sign was placed outside an ambulatory care center and in the lobby to make patients feel comfortable with seeking healthcare at that clinic.
Like Denise, many nurses solve problems, use observation, and research to test new interventions on a regular basis that can be considered innovations, but we may overlook the value of these interventions and never share them with the larger healthcare community. Consider how many tips you have given to new nurses during orientation that saved time or saved lives. Why is it that we rarely consider our contributions to be innovations? Perhaps it is because we typically consider technologies like robots, mobile apps, and medical devices to be innovations. Well that is just not the case; therefore, I challenge nurses to think differently about innovation.
Another way to think of innovation is to use an existing tool or device for a new purpose. An example of this is how older drugs are approved for new indications. Similarly, nurses may find a secondary benefit of an existing device that we can use to support nursing care like using a patient’s mobile phone to record patient teaching. There also may be great ideas that nurses can repurpose from another industry to solve a problem in healthcare. An example of this is how nursing professional development practitioners borrowed from the entertainment and gaming industry to foster learning in a more engaging format. Having received poor feedback about boring lectures in a nurse residency program, the organizers of the program implemented escape rooms to reinforce learning and to test problem-solving skills among nurse residents. (Adams, Burger, Crawford, et al., 2018).
The next time you improvise to solve a patient problem, document it in the form of a poster presentation or send it to a journal. You’ll have to do some research to explain the underlying science and to determine if your intervention is original. While you may not think your idea will have a significant impact, there’s a strong chance that your contribution may be just the solution that other nurses are seeking.
Adams, V., Burger, S.,Crawford, K., et al. (2018). Can You Escape? Creating an Escape Room to Facilitate Active Learning. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 34, E1-E5. doi:10.1097/NND.0000000000000433
Felsenstein, D. (2018). Enhancing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Cultural Competence in a Midwestern Primary Care Clinic Setting. Journal for Nurses in Professional Development, 34, 142-150. doi:10.1097/NND.0000000000000450