This Nursing ‘Idea Factory’ is Leading the Way in LGBTQIA+ Innovation
Nurses’ inherent ability to identify complex problems and develop innovative solutions – quickly and collaboratively – is part of the philosophy behind the Eidos LGBT+ Health Initiative, a social entrepreneurship lab at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing.
This interdisciplinary program is empowering the nurses, and entrepreneurs, to pursue social justice and gender equality, one nurse at a time.
For 125 years, Johnson & Johnson has supported nurse innovation. And this Pride Month, we’re celebrating organizations who strive for gender equality in both policy and practice. In exploring new ways of caring for all gender and sexual minorities, we sat down with Nursing School researcher and professor José Bauermeister, PhD, MPH, and his colleague, Jessica Halem, MBA, to discuss the work that they’re doing at Eidos — and how it’s empowering nurses to innovate and scale solutions for social justice.
The interdisciplinary power of a social entrepreneurship lab
Eidos is not a start-up. It’s also more than a research center, and it’s bigger than an academic think tank. Eidos is a social entrepreneurship lab — a well-researched enterprise that designs fundable solutions to address a social mission.
“Social entrepreneurship” is a relatively new term, but the concept of cause-related businesses can be traced back much farther. Increasingly, research finds that nursing social entrepreneurship in particular can lead to positive change in patient outcomes.
In ancient Greek, eidos means “form,” and Bauermeister says the name is grounded in the concept of how ideas become meaningful to societies. The program launches this summer, with the goal of creating better health solutions for LGBTQIA+ individuals by leveraging multi-disciplinary experts, including nurses. A convener of innovations in the healthcare space, Eidos is a marriage of academics, entrepreneurs, and health care experts, all grounded in the School of Nursing.
Halem explains, “Grassroots outreach is all about getting to the people, academia is all about research – telling us everything we need to know about this community, and then you have this incredible frontline of nursing, who is able to say, ’That's all good in theory, but how does that come into practice?’”
Nursing students and other innovators will collaborate with university professors, public companies, and private entrepreneurs interested in social justice. Together, their partnership will produce evidence-based, market-ready solutions that advance the health and wellbeing of sexual and gender minorities – and prevent or reverse the negative outcomes associated with medical discrimination.
Basing the program in the School of Nursing is no accident. It’s an intentional effort to bring nurse-driven solutions to bear.
Bauermeister and Halem have backgrounds in public health and grassroots advocacy, and their career experiences have made it clear that nurses are integral to, and effective in, driving change for patients.
“I don't think that nurses are given enough credit for the fact that they are constantly — I mean, daily — innovating, creating solutions, looking for loopholes, wraparounds, and that is both on the preventive side and on the care side,” Bauermeister said.
Nurses look not just at the health issue, but at the patient, and their family, explains Bauermeister. Because of this, he anticipates his students will not just meet singular, temporary needs — but provide livable, sustainable solutions. Nurses, he’s found, are everyday innovators of population health.
“Knowing that nurses are so well trusted, knowing that they are thinking about systems and people individually, it was the perfect fit,” he said. “Nurses, on a day to day, work with social workers, with physicians, with design teams. They work with lawyers and paralegals; nurses already are interfacing with all those areas. Eidos is just what an application of that richness and the discipline has towards our mission.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Penn Nursing champions innovation. "Working with nurses and for UPenn to house this program [in the nursing school] is a testament to how fast they want the innovation cycle to manifest,” says Halem.
The future of nurse-led innovation in LGBTQIA+ care
Eidos connects the power of clinical innovators with the research-tested best practices of academics and the funding and scalability of entrepreneurs.
The first step is an open call for innovative projects and programs, many of which are already in development, and will benefit from the interdisciplinary support of Eidos.
Some of these early efforts include a health equity tool to measure the LGBTQIA+ health competency of health providers; an app that helps LGBTQIA+ youth navigate life skills, and an app aimed to reduce loneliness among LGBTQIA+ older adults.
Bauermeister and Halem envision that once scaled, families, employers, health insurers and universities can leverage Eidos-supported, evidence-based interventions like these to improve the health and wellness of LGBTQIA+ patients. The idea is to make these products or programs effective in the market, and take advantage of the many stakeholders interested in improving the health of individuals.
“There are some really extraordinary innovations happening clinically around gender-affirming care,” Bauermeister said. “We want to solve problems, but sometimes it’s not about the deficit. Sometimes the problem needs to be solved by taking the amazing things that are already happening at the grassroots, in the healthcare setting, and amplifying them—giving them a voice and highlighting the potential that they bring.”
Learn more about Eidos here, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.