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Nursing News HighlightsNurses Leading Innovation

Nurse Leader Urges Fellow Nurses to Improve Healthcare through Innovation

Female nurse in scrubs and gloves wearing virtual reality goggles performing something in the air
As the healthcare industry becomes more focused on innovation as a pathway to improving patient outcomes, nurses are stepping up as leaders and innovators, turning their frontline experience into creative solutions to improve patient care. Across her various positions at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), Marion Leary, RN, MSN, MPH, FAHA, is focused on researching ways that nurse-led initiatives can improve healthcare now and in the future.

Marion serves as the director of innovation research at the Center for Resuscitation Science (CRS) at UPenn, an innovation specialist and professor at the UPenn School of Nursing, and professor in the UPenn Master of Public Health Program. In addition to these formal roles, Marion also uses social media to promote science communication and dive deeper into resuscitation science – she leads CRS Twitter chats, has coordinated the social media plan for the American Heart Association’s Resuscitation Science Symposium last year, and participates in guest takeovers of third-party Twitter accounts to talk more about her work.

Marion’s nursing journey had an untraditional beginning – instead of going directly to college and nursing school after high school, she spent time working with non-profit organizations until she realized her passion for research and decided to continue her education. She decided to pursue a career in nursing because it seemed like a good path that would support her research goals, so she began working in the medical intensive care unit and later took a position as a nurse research coordinator with the CRS, where she worked her way up as a nurse researcher and now leads her own studies.

“There’s not only one way to do things,” Marion said. “The experiences you acquire over a lifetime can help you in what you do today.”

This realization — which began early on in Marion’s nursing journey — has continued to guide her innovation projects today.

One of Marion’s current research projects is focused on utilizing immersive technology, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), as a tool in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training modules. Because these types of technologies are still in their early stages in healthcare application, research is required to be able to show tangible data proving their value in enhancing training and patient care.

One of the biggest advantages of using immersive technology as a training tool, Marion said, is that it prepares emergency responders emotionally and mentally for emergency situations instead of just teaching them techniques in a classroom environment. By using this technology to create a sense of heightened realism and stress in a controlled learning environment, nurses and other providers are taught to face their initial fears and ultimately feel more prepared when facing the situation in real life.

In addition to her research with VR and AR, Marion has various ongoing projects at UPenn, including launching a new interdisciplinary course focused on innovation and design thinking and working alongside the biomedical library on technology-focused innovation projects. Many of her initiatives are helping to highlight the essential role of nurses as innovators in healthcare.

“Nurses have been innovators since the beginning of the profession; there just hasn’t been a word for it,” Marion said. “We’re training nurses to think about themselves in this way and to be leaders in innovation — they are the ones taking innovation from the bedside all the way through.”

Because nurses are on the frontlines interacting with patients, families, and community members, many public health interventions and new treatment options go through nurses before becoming a reality.

“Healthcare, innovation and entrepreneurship is an interdisciplinary team sport, and nurses can be the leaders of those teams,” Marion said.

For those who are interested in bringing their own innovations to life, Marion recommends entering into competitions, applying for accelerator programs — like the Innovation Accelerator Program at UPenn — and branching outside of existing healthcare circles. By meeting new people — from business leaders to engineers — ideas can flourish and nurses can take the next step in making their ideas a reality.

Marion also emphasized that there are many forms of innovation, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be technology-focused. Beyond new inventions, innovation can also stem from improving education and training, and developing ways of sharing information accurately and efficiently. Whether it is telling a story, using social media as a tool, or translating information through data visualization, nurses should be leading the way, she said. To learn more about Marion’s work at the UPenn CRS, visit the website here.

To keep up with Marion’s innovative work and research, follow her on Twitter.

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