Transforming Care by Engaging Nurses in Innovation

Monday, 30 October 2017: 3:05 PM

Bonnie Clipper, DNP, MA, MBA
Cornerstone Hospital of Austin, Austin, TX, USA

Engaging nurses to influence and lead change is important as collectively we work to improve and influence global health and health policy. However, innovation is necessary for the type of change that we need to make in order to significantly improve the quality, access and costs associated with global health and health policy. While organizations recognize the need for significant change, they are often unable to create dramatic and sustainable change that will provide the desired outcomes.

Innovation is assembling new or existing ideas into practice differently or could even be the first commercialized or systematic use of an idea (Melnyk & Davidson, 2009; Fagerberg 2004). Whereas invention is different from innovation in that it is the development of a new idea or the first occurrence of a new product or process (Melnyk & Davidson, 2009; Fagerberg 2004).

Creating an organizational culture where innovation is part of the organization’s character is difficult to accomplish and even more difficult to sustain. An innovative organization is an organization willing to experiment, test new ideas and even tolerate failure. All organizations start out by being open to new ideas however; often draw inwards to “shelter” themselves from being different while at the same time trying to balance the needs and perceptions of their customers (Gibson & Kelly, 2010)

Eisenbeiss (2008) found that a culture supportive of innovation could increase the number of ideas that are developed and put into practice because team members working in this type of environment are more likely to dedicate their time and efforts to develop new ideas. To create this type of organizational culture, an environment must exist where leaders promote this type of thinking. Successfully creating a culture for innovation requires four key components; effective leadership, investment in people (education, training and mentorship), resources (time to create innovations) and technology support (computers, online journal access, learning labs).

The current state of global health requires leaders to exercise their influence and engage nurses in transforming care to create organizations that are learning organizations, open to continual experimentation and provide for ongoing process improvement, increased access and reduced health care costs. In order to adequately care for our growing, complex populations, leaders will need to embrace this new leadership initiative and leverage their skills to build an organizational culture where innovation can thrive and disruptive change can occur.

Building a sustainable culture of innovation through engaging nurses is an emerging competency for leaders, which requires the knowledge to create an organizational ecosystem necessary to support care transformation. Leaders of all areas of nursing, whether it be clinical, research, policy or education should be able to identify the behaviors necessary to develop an environment supportive of disruption, creativity, failure and paradigm shifts, as a means to nurture an organizational culture of innovation.

Nurses are natural advocates for improving health and health policy and as such function at their highest level when they are provided the tools and organizational support to experiment with their ideas and become actively involved in change management. As the new found competency of creating a culture of innovation matures, leaders, along with their leadership teams, will increasingly grow confident in facilitating the replacement of hierarchical reporting relationships and silos with cross functional teams and matrixed relationships and replacing slow processing or decision making times with rapid cycle change processes. The successful leader will role model the willingness to try new ideas, the tolerance of failure and an openness to accept divergent thinking as they work to create a culture of innovation within their organization (Cianelli, et al. 2016). As the speed of innovation quickens, nurses and their leaders will come to realize that the adoption and support of innovation will need to intensify in order to meet the challenges and demands of the future of health and health policy (McSherry & Douglas, 2011).