Innovation in Nursing: 6 Ways the Field Is Propelling Forward

You probably know by now how dynamic the nursing profession is—always changing, updating and improving. In the thick of the job, it can be hard to see the innovation in nursing on an industry-wide level. But some of the most important changes in healthcare today are pioneered or implemented first by nurses.

“Our field is ripe for innovation in how we think about providing healthcare,” says Leigh Ann Bradley, PhD, RN and COO of the Healthcare Experience Foundation. It makes a ton of sense when you think about it. Nurses typically see more of their patients than any other healthcare professional, giving them a unique perspective on what is and isn’t working.

“As the nurses of today and tomorrow, we each have the opportunity to pioneer change,” Bradley says. “Change in how we perceive our own profession and how we view and provide care for those people who offer themselves into our care every day.”

If you could use some inspiration on the amazing things nurses and the nursing industry are doing in healthcare, then keep reading. Who knows—maybe you’ll come up with an innovative idea of your own!

6 Nursing innovations shaking up the field

1. Patient-centered care

“I believe our most exciting next-gen movement in nursing has to do not with technology, but with providing a new kind of experience of healthcare,” Bradley says. “We are in the midst of a true revolution from a disease-centric focus to a focus that takes into account what people experience as they move through the healthcare continuum.”

“We are learning to put ourselves in the shoes and on the gurneys of our patients,” Bradley explains. This change involves much more than patient satisfaction. Research links better patient experience with better clinical outcomes. This makes patient experience a potentially life-saving issue. “This shift will ultimately improve health literacy and increased understanding; healthcare will no longer be a mysterious, and often fearful, experience,” Bradley says.

“I believe this new focus on providing an experience in which every person can receive the best healthcare possible will be spearheaded by nursing,” Bradley adds, “Nurses are the people who see and feel those changes that occur in the small, intimate moments at the bedside.”

“This approach returns us to our fundamental reason for becoming nurses—to provide quality care for the people who place themselves in our hands.”

2. Nurse entrepreneurs creating solutions

Traditionally, when nurses wanted to make high-level industry changes, they aimed their efforts at education or administration. But in more recent years, nurses have been finding a new path to influence healthcare—the business sector.

“The latest turn toward nurse entrepreneurship and nurses in business excites me,” says Michelle Greene Rhodes, RN, author and speaker for nurses. Rhodes says this digital age has empowered many people to become small business owners. “Nursing looks to be embracing that trend.”

When nurses step into businesses—as owners or consultants, they have the opportunity to effect speedy changes. Take electronic medical records (EHRs) for example. If nurses come on board with a company designing the digital products that maintain those records, they can speak to user experience in a way no one else could. They can bring up common grievances with other EHR systems to make the product more efficient and more intuitive for healthcare professionals to use.

“Healthcare makes billions daily, and most times, nurses are at the helm of these institutions,” Rhodes says. “Nurses should be empowered to join in on the conversation as much they are able to drive it.”

Rhodes encourages all nurses who enjoy administration or finance to consider the possibility of entrepreneurship in healthcare. “Serve in your profession in a different capacity yet impacts lives daily.”

3. Post-cancer remission support

Speaking of nurse entrepreneurship, there are some specific innovations founded by nurses who recognized a need in healthcare that wasn’t being met.

“I am most excited about the innovations related to certain nurse-founded companies,” says Amelia Roberts, BSN RN CPN and founder of the Business of Nursing. Roberts says the nurse-founded company Carevive stepped up to address life outside of doctor’s appointments in a meaningful way.

“They are also addressing the journey related to post-cancer remission,” Roberts says. “Few organizations support oncology survivorship in a way that keeps data connected to the survivors’ medical records.”

4. Nurses in user-experience roles

“There are many companies now realizing that nurses have the best understanding of what qualifies as a true clinical need,” Roberts says. “Nurses are with the end user of many products and services, they see problems experiences by users and they are also aware of how to access solutions and other resources.”

For example, a company that makes medical devices might hire a nurse as a product consultant because that nurse has seen those devices in use with many different patients. Nurses know what the device needs to do, how it needs to feel and what some of the daily trouble spots are, and they can assist the product development with that information.

“Nurses are uniquely qualified to do well in business solutions related to user experience and product development,” Roberts says.

5. Nurses guiding business decisions

It’s a scenario that’s been played out hundreds of times over in a variety of industries. A relatively disconnected administrator comes up with a policy or process change from on-high that sounds good in theory but ends up being poorly implemented when it reaches the people who carry it out—resulting in lost time, frustration and more. Scenarios like these are precisely why healthcare systems would be wise to have nurse leadership on, or consulting with, their financial teams as they have the firsthand experience of how things really work. Roberts says nurses with some training in finance can facilitate shorter sales cycles for their institution.

“They may better understand who needs to be at the table for early conversations related to buying patterns, supply chains, procurement and other spending decisions,” Roberts says.

6. Automating and streamlining work processes

A common problem in nursing is having so much to do that it cuts into the time you can spend with patients. But one innovation happening in nursing is the utilization of digital tools to streamline work process so that more time can be spent with the patient, according to Sherry Dillon, RN, CPHRM and vice president of product management at Bravado Health.

“We’re in the final stages of developing a product that makes sure every patient receives a high-quality discharge and coordinates the complexities of care after discharge for optimal patient recovery,” Dillon says. “When we keep patients at the focal point, a nurse can have an impact whether it’s direct-patient care or creating innovations that make nursing care easier.”

Dillon came to her work in software from a strong desire to empower clinicians with technology that will make their jobs easier and improve the patient experience. “Who knew all those years ago that this is where I would end up?” she says.

Innovation in the future of nursing

“Clara Barton says it best,” Dillon says, quoting the nursing pioneer. “‘It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past.’” Dillon encourages every nurse to be anything they want to be and help any type of patient they want to help.

Just think—right now, nurses are coming up with innovations in nursing that could reshape healthcare.

Roberts would love to see synchronizations in hospital systems so information systems talk to one another and also have EHRs read like a narrative to make patient history clearer. Dillon expects more innovation in the telehealth arena, offering a greater connection of patients and providers with less hassle and expense. Modern technology makes the healthcare field overall a prime target for innovative changes, and we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible. Nursing leadership can be a valuable bridge between the tech experts trying to “disrupt” the field, and the nurses who see these changes through.

If these innovations get your mind racing, or if you’ve already thought of a need that isn’t being met or a problem that needs solving, you might have the makings of an innovative nursing leader yourself. Find out if you’re ready to make the jump into nursing leadership by reading our article, “5 Signs You Should Consider Earning an MSN Degree.”

About the author

Brianna Flavin

Brianna is a senior content manager who writes student-focused articles for Rasmussen University. She holds an MFA in poetry and worked as an English Professor before diving into the world of online content. 

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