Keeping an Eye on Nursing Innovations

Tips on becoming a successful innovator

Innovation is an important part of a nurse’s professional responsibility. Across the globe, nurses are continually devising innovations that are changing professional nursing practice – from how patients are managed and cared for to how compliance regulations are met and new technologies are utilized.

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In this Q&A, Nancy M. Albert, PhD, CCNS, CHFN, CCRN, NE-BC, FAHA, FCCM, FHFSA, FAAN, Associate Chief Nursing Officer of Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Nursing Research and Innovation and a clinical nurse specialist in Cleveland Clinic’s Kaufman Center for Heart Failure, discusses why nursing innovations are so imperative and how nurses can become successful innovators.

Q:  Why are nursing innovations important to clinical systems and processes in healthcare settings?

A:  Nursing innovation delivers immense value to healthcare delivery. For years, nursing innovations have offered insights into streamlining care, creating efficiencies, eliminating unnecessary steps and reducing costs. Innovations have improved clinical outcomes, opened doors to new opportunities, created and captured value, and paved the way for future successes. As today’s healthcare environment continues to evolve and change, successful innovations in nursing are a strategic necessity.

Q:  How can nurse leaders create a culture of innovation within their organizations?

A:  Most important to establishing a culture of innovation, leaders must set a foundational structure and implement associated processes. Building a strong foundational structure, complete with resources and values that enhance collaboration (such as trust, perseverance and flexibility), encourages caregiver engagement and ensures a work environment that promotes creativity and teamwork – both of which inspire innovation. Additionally, implementing processes that guide innovation is important; nursing personnel need to know who to contact when they have an idea and the steps they need to take to move their idea forward toward commercialization and/or internal implementation. Questions to be answered are: How do you turn an idea into a potential innovation? How do you know if the innovation is viable? How will you measure its impact?

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At Cleveland Clinic, some of the first steps we took to establish a culture of innovation included:

  • Enhanced job responsibilities within our Office of Nursing Research and Innovation to include a refined focus on ideation and innovation development.
  • Developed a Nursing Innovation Center, an internal website that provides nursing innovation information, offers education, insight and references, and recognizes/awards innovators.
  • Created an Innovations Peer Review Committee to offer an objective viewpoint on the worth and return on investment of novel solutions.
  • Developed three different innovation programs (each with specific processes) to encourage submission of ideas: Innovation Inventory, I Innovate and Step Forward.

Q:  What advice do you have for nurses who are afraid to bring their innovations forward?

A:  Don’t be afraid to bring your innovative idea forward. Sometimes, the most disruptive ideas are the ones that lead to the biggest success. And if the idea fails to move forward, that’s okay. Failure is part of being innovative. We expect failure. We want people to “fail fast” and not to be afraid to try again!

Innovation is for all nurses – from the bedside to the boardroom. At Cleveland Clinic, our philosophy is to treat all incoming ideas and innovations as potentially worthy and important. Ideas, even if they cannot move forward in their current state, may be the stepping stone to something better. Essentially, failure is part of success. In many cases, realizing the end goal requires fast and frequent failure, as cited in The CNO and Leading Innovation: Competencies for the Future. The publication references the “need for individuals to experience failure when practicing innovation as an evolutionary step in learning about innovation in their organizations. In fact, the concepts of failing forward and failing quickly are identified in business literature as essential for creative organizations.”

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Q:  What other key points should nurses keep in mind to be successful innovators?

A:  Personal characteristics play an important part in successful innovation. When moving an innovation forward, it is rare that the road is smooth and the end point is in sight. Often, challenges abound. Therefore, nurses must be passionate about their idea and be willing to weather the upcoming storms and rough roads. Resilience and endurance are important, as is staying true to the purpose of the innovation. Further, we may need help to see our innovative ideas through a new lens. We must be willing to collaborate with others, especially stakeholders, and communicate and partner with interdisciplinary colleagues to advance ideas into innovation successes.

Additionally, nurses should remember that we all have a common professional goal – to work smarter, not harder. Through nursing innovation, nurses can bring new dimensions of possibility to their work. They can share ideas, issues and concerns that may lead to solutions. And, they can suggest creative alternatives to known best practices and past successes. With innovation at the forefront, nurses can directly advance nursing practice and positively shape the future of healthcare. In the words of Peter F. Drucker, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Nursing innovation can revolutionize healthcare by improving patient outcomes, streamlining processes and reducing healthcare costs. The 6th Annual Nursing Innovation Summit will highlight successful invention experiences, provide education on the cultivation of ideas, offer resources to create solutions and much more. Join us on Friday, Oct. 19 in Warrensville Heights, Ohio. Click HERE to register!