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Nursing News HighlightsNurses Leading Innovation

Encouraging Nurses to Pursue Innovative Thinking

When Hiyam Nadel, RN, MBA, CGC, gives lectures to nurses, she often begins by showing a roll of tape and asking a simple question: “How many things have you done with a piece of tape - making modifications to equipment that wasn’t working quite right?”

As innovative thinkers, most nurses in the room have a different answer to the question since they’ve likely used something as simple as tape to create a solution for their patients. In Hiyam’s own experience, she has used tape to secure catheters to patients’ legs as a way to reduce the pain and make walking easier when the patients needed to be mobile. This taping method is now on the market.

Because most nurses have an answer to the first question, Hiyam then asks a follow-up question: “How can you take this to the next level?” This way of thinking shapes the ways that nurses can become recognized innovators and the ways they can take their innovation from an idea to a true solution.

As the nursing director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) department and an innovation specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital (Mass General) in Boston, Mass., Hiyam educates nurses about opportunities to innovate and helps them to bring their innovative ideas to life. In addition to her formal roles, she is also a judge for Mass General’s Innovation Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) Grant Program, which takes the hospital’s culture of innovation further by offering funding to nurses with innovative ideas.

As part of her involvement with the IDEA program, Hiyam also serves as an “accelerator,” or a mentor who helps nurses with ideas take the next step to bringing them to life. She helps the annual award winners vet their ideas and ensure that they don’t already exist, and if they do, determining whether they can be modified and improved. She then helps them create a prototype and, eventually, secure the funding for a clinical trial.

Nurses are in prime positions to be innovators because they are so familiar with patients’ needs, Hiyam said. Through constant interactions with patients and families, nurses gain a unique perspective that not all providers have.

“When nurses start to bring their innovations to the next level, I often ask them, ‘What’s next?’” Hiyam told Johnson & Johnson Nursing. “Many of them tell me that innovating has made them more passionate about bedside care, because their daily interactions with patients help them to see what improvements are needed and give them an outlet to bring these ideas forward.”

This familiarity also helps nurses innovate in ways beyond physical inventions. Hiyam emphasized that innovation is much more than just invention – though that’s an important part; it’s also about procedure and protocol improvements, and nurses are in prime positions to identify the places these improvements are needed.

“People are starting to recognize nurses as subject matter experts,” Hiyam said. “They’re starting to bring innovations to hospitals to gather expertise from nurses before putting new innovations on the market.”

However, as essential as innovation is, Hiyam says that one of the biggest obstacles for nurses is often themselves, since nurses often don’t immediately think of themselves as innovators. In an effort to change this mindset, she works to bring in guest lecturers who can speak about the true meaning of innovation; she also often goes to different floors of the hospital to showcase nurses’ innovations to their peers. By exemplifying nurses’ innovative work, Hiyam hopes to inspire other nurses to think creatively and take the next step in bringing their own ideas to life.

Hiyam has had the benefit of “visionary leadership” at Mass General, so bringing ideas to life has always been supported. According to Hiyam, as leaders learn more about the power of nurse-led innovation, they often support the idea even more, so having the conversation and bringing the topic to the forefront is essential.

“If you’re interested in getting involved in innovation, go to your leadership,” Hiyam suggested. “You never know what resources you have available to you right in your institution, and, as nurses continue to raise these questions, leadership will notice and take action.”

To learn more about Mass General and the IDEA Grant Program, visit the hospital’s website here.

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