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Nursing News HighlightsNurses Leading Innovation

Helping Nurses to Thrive and Grow Through Mentorship

According to McKinsey’s latest research, 32 percent of registered nurses said they may leave their patient care role, a retention issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Two Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellows hope to address the problem of attrition by mentoring nursing students and bedside nurses alike with the power of innovation.

When Michelle Munro-Kramer, PhD, CNM, FNP-BC, began her career as a nursing student at Michigan State University, she had very little exposure to what it meant to be a nurse. It was a faculty member in her program who eventually became her mentor and helped to shape Michelle’s trajectory by sharing positive feedback on her writing and ideas and encouraging her interest in global health. Now a faculty member herself at University of Michigan School of Nursing, Michelle pays this mentorship forward with her own students, in this case emphasizing the importance of innovation as they prepare for a career in nursing.

Conversely, Hiyam Nadel, MBA, BSN, RN, didn’t have a strong mentor to guide her early on in her journey to becoming a nurse innovator. She recalled that most of what she learned about innovation, she had to figure out on her own. However, when she became a nurse leader at Massachusetts General Hospital, she saw how important it was for nurses to work within a strong culture and community, where they could have a safe space to innovate. As the Director for the Center for Innovations in Care Delivery, Hiyam has dedicated herself to mentoring her fellow nurses and helping them hone and test their ideas.

Michelle and Hiyam have devoted a significant portion of their careers to mentorship, and both leaders were a part of the first cohort of Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellowship, a two-year program that helps strengthen leadership and entrepreneurial skills to inspire more nurse-led innovation in healthcare.

After watching several of her students express interest in areas that fell outside of the traditional nursing curriculum, Michelle searched for new ways to engage them. During the pandemic, she worked with ten nursing students to create an inaugural Student Innovation Ambassadors program, which focuses on building a community of like-minded, out-of-the-box thinkers. Mentorship from faculty, bedside nurses and graduate students was the most fervent request from her students, and she worked to ensure her students were able to learn from a diverse set of mentors.


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“To me, there's a lot of power in being a student, because the learning never stops and it empowers them,” said Michelle. “They are coming from a place where they see what needs to be improved in healthcare and they're excited to enter the workforce, take action and continue learning throughout their career.”

A key feature of the program was putting on a nursing student-led hackathon, Innovate 4 Change, where nursing students were encouraged to work with peers from across the University to address healthcare problems and create solutions. In total, seven teams with a total of about 30 participants representing nursing, engineering, public health, dentistry, information science, data science, health informatics and business participated in the event. For nearly 70% of the student participants, the hackathon was a new experience they had not previously engaged in. Michelle recalled how engineering student participants, who were no strangers to innovation, were excited and invigorated to partner with their nursing peers on finding new healthcare solutions.

The winning team, Mother Nurture, at Michelle’s Innovate 4 Change event. The team is focusing on providing education, supplies and resources to address postpartum care in Flint, Michigan.

“Our nursing students are going into a health care system with fresh perspectives – they are not attached to thinking about the way it's always been done,” said Michelle. “The mentorship in our innovation community gives them that ability to think creatively about all of the different things they can do in their career.”

Hiyam has also served as a mentor in hackathons at her alma mater Northeastern University, as well as for participants in NurseHack4Health presented by Johnson & Johnson, SONSIEL and Microsoft, and as a judge in J&J’s Nurses Innovate Quickfire Challenge. It is her passion, she said, to teach and empower nurses to be innovators and solve real problems facing health systems today.

“There are so many problems in healthcare that we can solve for. So, if there are more of us who are trained in this process, we'll accelerate those solutions at a much faster pace,” said Hiyam. “I always tell the people I mentor that I want them to go out and be a champion and start teaching their colleagues how to think through these problems.”

Hiyam utilizes a human-centered approach to create an environment where innovation can flourish. She works directly with her nursing staff to convert those ideas and concepts into processes, business decisions and even products that generate better health care outcomes. To date, Hiyam has seen eight innovations come to life. These innovations, which were led by nurses whom Hiyam mentored, are in different stages of development and one even has a patent pending. She credits the leadership at Mass General for creating a culture where innovation, professional development and nurse leadership are intrinsic within the organization.

Teams and individuals mentored by Hiyam create journey maps for their innovations. The teams use journey maps to demonstrate the value of their innovations in improving patient care outcomes.

“What I’ve learned is that when you develop teams, you must create a safe space for people to speak up because we all benefit when we push each other, but respectfully so,” said Hiyam. “Different perspectives are not just wanted and desired, but necessary to finding the best solution.”

Michelle looks forward to watching her first class of Student Innovation Ambassadors graduate this spring and has already begun recruiting the next cohort of future innovators. She has plans for another hackathon and hopes to continue teaching her nursing students about the power of innovation in healthcare. Hiyam is looking to support larger institutions and international nurse programs in establishing the same precedent for capturing and implementing nurse innovation into improved health outcomes. Mentorship will continue to be a key focus for her as she works to improve health care infrastructure and shift the mindset of health care leaders to place nurse innovation at the center of the business model.

As retention issues continue to affect the nursing field, both nursing leaders believe that the mentorship and community-building that they have prioritized in their programs will continue to energize and empower nurses to innovate, and thus deepen engagement with their day-to-day work. Michelle and Hiyam also believe in the importance of nurturing and supporting an innovative mindset in nursing school, and working within health systems to continue to develop and support nursing innovation throughout a nurse’s career.

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