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Latest News & EventsNurses Leading Innovation

Innovation Evangelist Bonnie Clipper’s Mission to Help Nurse Ideas Succeed

Ahead of the Year of the Nurse in 2020, we sat down with nurse innovation expert, best-selling author and public speaker Bonnie Clipper, DNP, MA, MBA, RN, CENP, FACHE, to hear what she’s most excited about for the future of nursing and learn about her new book, “The Nurse’s Guide to Innovation.”

Convener. Collaborator. Connector. Nurses can play a unique role in innovation, and no one believes that more than Dr. Bonnie Clipper. After an impactful career as a nurse for more than 30 years, including 20 as a nurse executive, Bonnie had the opportunity to leverage her insights and passion for innovation as the first Vice President of Innovation for the American Nurses Association (ANA), where she led the development of the innovation framework to include the millions of registered nurses nationally to help them advance their ideas and innovations.

Now working as Chief Clinical Officer at Wambi and a health innovation mentor at MATTER, Bonnie is leveraging her experience as a nurse and her understanding of innovation to influence the design and development of healthcare solutions. Her recent experiences speaking globally about the power of nurse-led innovation influenced her to publish her new book, “The Nurse's Guide to Innovation: Accelerating the Journey,” a guide for nurses interested in developing, patenting, funding and marketing their great ideas to improve healthcare.

The Johnson & Johnson Notes on Nursing team recently spoke with Bonnie to learn more about her book and hear how she believes nurses can seize opportunities in leadership and innovation as we head into the Year of the Nurse.

J&J:
You describe yourself as an “Innovation Evangelist”- what do you mean by this?
Bonnie:
In my roles, I use my experience as a nurse and innovator to help clients and organizations improve their experience, providing insight into how nurses and patients would like to see solutions and how it will affect work flows and patient outcomes. When we go into organizations, it’s not uncommon for nurses to be unenthusiastic, thinking that this is one more thing to add to their plates, but when we speak to nurses and use their feedback in implementing our platform, the response is overwhelmingly positive. They love to hear the recognition directly from patients as it reaffirms why they went into nursing. Nurses are so busy—heads down, passing out medications, doing discharges—that they have no idea how much impact they can have on influencing emerging healthcare technology. My greatest passion is sharing with nurses how they can develop their ideas and participate in innovation. I speak in a way that resonates with nurses about what innovation is and how they can get involved. Innovation is a positive thing, and I’m championing it in a field that is often left out of the innovation conversation.
J&J:
Why are nurses uniquely positioned to solve the greatest challenges in healthcare?
Bonnie:
Nurses are my people, I understand them. They have incredible observation skills and mediate the dynamics of both functional and dysfunctional families. Patient support systems can be resource challenged and nurses bring incredible value. They have the ability to advocate for the patient and ensure that the patient is always the center of focus. They are educated across the care continuum, so they can put together a picture of the patient from a clinical perspective. They are uniquely positioned to be innovators, but they don’t typically have an innovation skillset. Nurses are natural innovators, constantly having these “MacGyver” moments and developing solutions in the trenches, but they aren’t given the tools and support for changing the system and championing a way to do things differently. Nurses aren’t generally even taught that they are “innovators” – instead they are taught to do what is necessary to care for the patient. But this is innovation.
J&J:
How can we be better at creating cultures of innovation within our organizations?
Bonnie:
In healthcare, there is this perception that we are innovative by nature, but we really aren’t. We talk ourselves out of things. But nurses have a story to tell, and the future of our healthcare systems depends on these voices being heard. To build a culture of innovation, you need to go to the heart of the organization and understand their tolerance for failure and risk. There is an opportunity for everyone to do a better job of reaching out and involving nurses in problem solving, and nurses are eager to solve these problems. Some organizations are much more receptive than others, but the proof is in the pudding. Nurse-led solutions have the potential to transform health, reduce costs and improve efficiencies across the care continuum. They just need skill-sets, support and learning opportunities, such as the hackathons and pitch challenges Johnson & Johnson supports, to enhance nurses’ leadership and collaborative problem-solving skills.
J&J:
In your opinion, what are some of the greatest challenges in the nursing profession?
Bonnie:
I think our profession continues to face the same challenges we have had for a while. In nursing, it’s difficult to convey our values and get the resources we think are necessary. Our profession calls on us to be good advocates for patients, however we are not always good advocates for ourselves. It’s important that we find our voice in a meaningful way. For over 17 years, nurses have been identified as the most trusted profession, but we don’t have the same level of influence. We need to figure out how to leverage this trust to enhance our influence, and the Year of the Nurse in 2020 can be a great catalyst to do this. This is the time to be more innovative than ever before. With these challenges can come great opportunities to create the future of nursing, instead of letting it happen to us.
J&J:
Do you have any advice for nurses who might be feeling demotivated in the profession?
Bonnie:
Stick with it. Nursing is such an incredible profession. We will always need nurses, even as our profession changes. Opportunities for nurses in non-patient care roles, leadership and even jobs outside of healthcare are growing faster than ever. It’s incredible to see the roles that nurses are growing into. Advances in technology will help nurses amplify their skills and continue to provide significant solutions. There’s a blue sky of opportunities for nurses.
J&J:
What does the Year of the Nurse and Midwife mean to you? What would you like to see come out of 2020?
Bonnie:
I think the Year of the Nurse in 2020 is a good way to remind ourselves of all the good work that we do. It’s an opportunity for us to draw attention to and demonstrate our value and what we bring to the table. We can use this year to say again and again how nurses are vital to transforming health. In my role as an innovation mentor, I’ve asked teams about who advised them and if they reached out to nurses. Most of the teams tell me, “We got everything we needed from the physicians” and I’ll tell them, “No, you really didn’t.” I’d love for those in innovation and technology to better understand the importance of having nurses be part of the discussion. Also, it’s interesting to me that in 2020, we still need to have conversations about bullying and incivility within our profession. I’d love for nurses to use 2020 as the start of being kinder to each other and recognizing the incredible need for us to all be on the same team and help each other. Finding ways to be grateful takes us back to our roots, and we need more of that.
J&J:
What courses or curriculum do you wish were more available to nursing students to help prepare them for a path of innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship?
Bonnie:
I recently wrote an article about this on LinkedIn titled “Advancing Nursing by Redesigning Nursing Education” because I think nursing education in general, is changing too slowly to meet the needs of the evolving nursing profession within such a rapidly changing healthcare world. Nurses can do cool stuff, but often don’t have a skillset for innovation. We need to disseminate this training faster and equip both new and incumbent nurses with these skills. And this transcends training in leadership, business and tech classes. Providing this education and training empowers nurses to do this work. We should also provide nurses with more information about how to advance their own innovative ideas, including topics such as intellectual property and the patent or trademark process.

I also think it’s so important for today’s nurses to be equipped with training in social determinants of health, behavioral psychology, design thinking, predictive analytics, data analytics – even “Technology 101.” This would provide nurses with a frame of reference for new programs or technologies aiming to change how they approach their work.
J&J:
What are some of the biggest opportunities for nurse-led innovation?
Bonnie:
I think the foremost area for opportunity is in technology, specifically in Artificial Intelligence, robotics and analytics. Many believe that robots are aiming to replace nurses and regard this with fear or anger. Nurses should be embracing these changes with optimism because nurses’ perspectives and input will be vital to the success of tools such as robotics in healthcare, so they can supplement and amplify, not replace our work. We should influence the solution.

I believe nurses will be instrumental in new models of care. Many are fixated on patient care that is delivered traditionally in brick and mortar, but care is moving outpatient and virtually. And many are fighting it tooth and nail, but more and more innovative groups are looking at how to deliver even intermediate level care in the patient’s home. I’ve had conversations with providers whose solutions involve having nurse practitioners or physicians performing virtual rounds, as well as other solutions encouraging the rental of ICU equipment that is managed by home health nurses in the patient’s home.

I also think public and community health nursing is getting a new lease on life. There is a huge role for nurses to play in transforming safety, violence prevention, scaling wellness and even climate change. If nurses can get more training and education in these areas, they can play an incredibly important role in transforming health outcomes in our country. Public health nurses are amazing, and we are ready to amplify their often-unrecognized work.
J&J:
Among your many accomplishments, this year you published a book, “The Nurse’s Guide to Innovation” described by some reviewers as “value-packed.” What was your inspiration and how has the response been?
Bonnie:
It’s designed to be a down and dirty toolkit that can be rolled up and tucked into your pocket to help nurses in their work. The idea came to me when I was out speaking to nurses and kept getting the same questions – how do I distribute my product, how do I manufacture my product, how do I secure funding? I realized there is an enormous gap here and it would be great to write a book capturing all these insights. I reached out to a group of eight amazing nurses in the innovation space and invited them to collaborate with me in this book. We assembled a great team of nurse innovators and entrepreneurs. We are nurse innovators sharing our unique experience and perspectives on intellectual property, funding, an innovative mindset, entrepreneurship and more – by nurses and for nurses.

The feedback so far has been incredibly positive. In the first 30 hours after the release, we became an Amazon bestseller in six countries, including USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany and Spain. Our publisher said they never thought that would happen, or that it would be a nursing book that accomplished it. It proves that the overwhelming demand is there. We’ve talked with some nursing schools interested in providing it as a supplemental book to some courses and to some organizations interested in making it available at their conferences.
J&J:
What would you like to see in the future of nursing?
Bonnie:
There are so many places nurses should be represented that they currently are not. Politics, we are becoming more represented in that space by some amazing nurses. Media, we should be there, and more than simply being quoted in more articles, I’d like to see nurses as news anchors or journalists. I’d like to see nurses as designers of equipment, technology and facilities, since nurses are the ones that use the technology and space. You would never see a long, straight hall with no storage space in a hospital ever again. I also want to see more nurses as entrepreneurs and owners of startups. These changes won’t happen overnight, we have a long road ahead of us, but I’m confident the spotlight that 2020 will cast on nursing will help not only advance the profession, but better health outcomes that can come from nurse innovation. We have a tremendous opportunity to get out there and lead. The sky is truly the limit with what nurses can accomplish. Nurses, the time is now. There is nothing holding us back. Buckle up!

(Bonnie Clipper speaking at the 2018 ANA Innovation Conference NursePitch™ event)

Dr. Bonnie Clipper’s new book, “The Nurse's Guide to Innovation: Accelerating the Journey,” is available on Amazon here.

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