“I am a nurse. A nurse practitioner by training and license. I am also a nurse innovator entrepreneur. Interestingly, ‘nurse,’ ‘innovator,’ and ‘entrepreneur’ don’t typically go together. But all of that is changing.”
Earlier this month at the 66th Annual National Student Nurses’ Association Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Rebecca Love, MSN, RN, ANP, addressed thousands of student nurses at the Thursday morning plenary session, which was presented and sponsored by Johnson & Johnson and inspired them to redefine the nursing profession through innovation and entrepreneurship. As the director of nurse innovation and entrepreneurship at Northeastern University School of Nursing in Boston, Mass., Rebecca knows just how important these traits are and how nurses are uniquely positioned to successfully initiate change.
What inspired Rebecca to become the director of nurse innovation was attending a three-day-long hackathon, an event where healthcare leaders, entrepreneurs, engineers, and more came together to brainstorm solutions to current healthcare issues. When she noticed that nurses didn’t have a prominent role in this event, Rebecca started her own Nurse Hackathon at Northeastern University to give nurses a place at the table and to provide them with the resources they need to turn their innovative ideas into reality.
This event combines nursing, innovation, and entrepreneurship, which were three topics that Rebecca emphasized in her presentation at the NSNA Annual Convention. To be successful as a nurse innovator, she told the students, three things need to happen: 1) change the conversation and redefine nursing, 2) embrace the role of innovator, and 3) learn the business side of healthcare.
1. Change the Conversation
Nurses so often refer to themselves as “just nurses,” however, this downplays the significance of nurses and the roles they play. Rebecca urged the student nurses at NSNA to proudly say, “I am a nurse.” She referenced a recent study that showed the public doesn’t have a great understanding of what nurses actually do at the bedside. To increase the understanding of nurses, the conversation needs to shift from saying “I’m just a nurse” to truly reflecting the impact and knowledge that nurses have.
2. Embrace the Role of Innovator
Rebecca emphasized that nursing was founded on innovation, and that’s either been forgotten or was never recognized wholly. Nurses are innovators each and every day: whether making equipment and processes better with workarounds or creating new technology to improve patient outcomes, innovation is ingrained in nursing. “Nurses are so essential to improvement because every patient interaction begins and ends with a nurse,” Rebecca said.
To Rebecca, innovation is “the great equalizer in nursing.” Innovation is not dependent on the degree one holds, as long as you have the passion to drive ideas forward and improve the world. Nurse innovation, she said, is transforming and uniting nurses across all levels.
3. Learn the Business Side of Healthcare
As Rebecca attended more and more hackathons, she noticed a trend: many of the winning teams had nurses on them. This proved to her that nurses had the practical knowledge from the bedside to be able to create great, innovative solutions. However, many nurses inherently utilize empathetic terms like “I think” and “I feel,” which tend to pale in comparison to financial statements and operation strategy. To truly drive innovation and gain a seat at the table, nurses need to learn about finance, operation, and entrepreneurship, Rebecca told the students.
Rebecca concluded her presentation by adding one more item to her original list: challenge the status quo, just as Florence Nightingale – the founder of nursing – did 200 years ago when she dared to challenge the accepted medical routines of the time and implemented one of the most important practices today: hand washing and instrument sterilization. Nurses, she said, are the at the beginning and the end of every great healthcare innovation.
Watch Rebecca’s “Healthcare’s Top Innovators: Nurses” NSNA presentation below.
Header photo: Harry Butler ©2018 NSNA