Nurse Innovation: Saving the Future of Healthcare | Rebecca Love | TEDxBeaconStreet

it was the year 1854 and the British government was entrenched in a bloody battle called the Crimean War Florence Nightingale served as a volunteer on one of the floors of the wards where the soldiers were brought after they had been injured on the battlefield unlike women of her generation she had been educated and what she witnessed inspired her to pen a letter to the British government in which she wrote if you had wanted to create a place worse than hell you have thus succeeded for what she saw around her was that the soldiers were not dying from the injuries they sustained on the battlefield but were dying from the death disease and infection that seemed to follow the physician from the bedside to the bedside to the bedside as he did not wash his hands nor sterilize his medical equipment conventional medical practice of the time believed that if you could not see it it did not exist and that germs were simply a figment of one's imagination but Florence Nightingale knew something was fundamentally wrong and without the support of her physician colleagues she implemented a policy of hygiene and sanitation among her support staff she had to be meticulous in her documentation in her notes and her follow-up to prove that washing one's hands and sterilization of medical quipment not only decreased rates of death and disease but the centuries-long conventional medical practice had been wrong Florence Nightingale challenged conventional medical practice she challenged the status quo to found nursing and she officially led medicine out of the dark ages of practice and forever fundamentally changed the future of science history and medicine with the establishment of the profession of Nursing today there are nearly 19 million nurses worldwide and 4 million in the United Thanks making up roughly half of the US healthcare workforce every day nurses stand on the front line between life and death of patients handling hundreds of thousands of dollars of highly complex medical equipment technology and medications to keep a patient alive the many hours a day a physician is not by the bedside every clinical interaction begins with and ends with the nurse and nurses are the end user of nearly every medical product on the market however nurses are rarely if ever engaged in the decision making products process of which products are to be brought forth into the healthcare system I can't tell you the number of times as a nurse new products were rolled out that we're supposed to decrease our workload but actually made more work for us let me give you an example something like this stethoscope only kidding they really didn't give us that stethoscope but many of the devices that they rolled out had a similar impact on to our workflow let me give you an example when I was a floor nurse our Hospital decided to roll out this new device to help us with communication so we took this device put it around our neck and off onto the floor we went suddenly this device started screaming at us and dr. Smith is on the phone your blood products are ready the IV is beeping in room 16 your new admission is here by the end of the first week we had all taken this device off and put it at the front desk explaining to our manager that had not at all helped our workflow but significantly complicated it after eventually the hospital brought back out this company to work with us on the design of the product but from that moment forward I wondered what if they had engaged with the nurse at the beginning of the design process how this would have driven down healthcare cost and increased productivity because the truth is nurses are natural innovators and they know where all the inefficiencies are in health care research studies show that nurses do 27 workarounds per shifted or in 36 different places over the course of an hour that means nurses are innovating in highly inefficient healthcare environment 27 times a shift their macgyvering the medical devices and the products on the hospital floor to better serve the needs of their patients the challenges workarounds are not considered a good thing in nursing they're not recognized as innovation they're seen as skipping over policy and procedure unlike places like Google or Amazon where employees are rewarded for identifying inefficiencies and fixing them nurses run the risk of losing their jobs so instead of driving forward innovation coming up with a new and if ways to deal with the inefficiencies they see around them nurses keep them secret and we keep living the definition of a sanity which according to Albert Einstein is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results the truth is we must embrace a culture of innovation whereby frontline workers can bring forward their innovation for innovation is the moment between stagnation and progress innovation is the impossible the unseeable be unbelievably unattainable until it is the possible the believable the attainable the seeable we must cultivate programs and environments that support those who want to drive forward for innovation as opposed to environments that keep supporting insanity and I have one idea hackathons and I think it's time I tell you a bit about my story for it wasn't very long ago that I didn't know what a hackathon was or how that one weekend would change my life a few years ago I was a struggling nurse entrepreneur and a friend of mine also an entrepreneur said Rebecca you should really attend this healthcare hackathon I had never heard of a hackathon so he explained it was this three-day event where people got together posed huge problems in healthcare forums teams and over the course of 56 hours came up with solutions I was sold I showed up at the event and the room was full of physicians medical students engineers and healthcare executives from all over as I walked around the room looking for my fellow nurses I realized I was the only nurse there and for at the moment I thought oh I'm not supposed to be here for you see as a nurse I was never invited to an event where healthcare executives were creating solutions to Health Care's biggest challenges and I wondered was I not supposed to be in this room but nobody asked me to leave so I ended up joining a team over the course of those three days were the most inspirational of my nursing career suddenly the door opened and a chief executive from a major Hospital healthcare company or startup would walk in the room and sit down right next to me and what I started to realize as we engaged and talked with them for the first time in my nursing career these healthcare executives were genuinely and authentically interested in my knowledge insight and opinion as a nurse to solving major healthcare problems over the course of those three days I learned more about the business of healthcare that I had learned in an entire year of trying to start a healthcare business and I left so inspired that I've studied the environment of healthcare hackathons around Boston and what I learned was that a very small percentage of nurses were attending those events but a vast majority of the teams had nurses on them so I hypothesized nurses have the practical bedside experience to create great solutions but even more than that they were fundamentally necessary in the process of innovation by which to create great health care solutions and in that moment I knew that there had to be a nurse hackathon and lucky for me I picked up the phone and connected with dr. Nancy Hanrahan who was the Dean of a leading School of Nursing at the time I explained to her my experience at this hackathon and she said Rebecca I'm running this summit on innovation and entrepreneurship next year why don't you run a hackathon and I said well I've been to a hackathon sure I'll run a half Thun I joined a chain of incredible volunteers and for the next year we worked tirelessly towards this event the truth is we had no idea anyone would show up or if anybody would believe that nurses should be innovators in the last three decades there had been less than a handful of articles that even mentioned nurse innovator and entrepreneur in the same article nonetheless the same sentence suddenly two weeks before the event we were sold out 250 people were attending and every major Boston hospital was sending a team of nurses to attend the event dr. Henry Han called me and she said Rebecca what's next and I said I don't know dr. Hannah Han what is next and she said we can't just introduce nurses to the ideas of innovation entrepreneurship and leave them without supports I want you to come on as the director of innovation and entrepreneurship and I said what program are we gonna model after it's just like there is none we'll build the plane as we fly it that was June 2016 and for two years we built the leading program of innovation entrepreneurship for nurses in the country we participated in over 36 different innovation events and had over 18 publications written about the work we were doing it led to the first time in the history of the American Nurses Association to appoint their first vice president of innovation in the institution that's been around for 200 years and it also allowed Johnson and Johnson to pivot their 15 year campaign of recognizing and thanking nurses for their service to recognizing nurse innovators across the history of healthcare we had started seismic change in the world of Nursing and the truth is perhaps the best chance we have at saving the future of Nursing for the reality is Nursing is facing unprecedented challenges in the past two to three years we've had more nurses on strike than we have seen in decades the average age of a nurse in this country is 50 and 70% of nurses are over the age of 40 however the most concerning and significant statistic that you may not be aware is that up to 50% of our new nursing graduates believe in the bedside within two years of practice the largest exodus from any profession we are facing with all combined factors a nearly 1.25 million nursing shortage between the year 2020 in 2025 just in the United States if we do not fundamentally change the way we have been engaging nurses in health care the predictions we fear the most will become reality and there will be no nurses to care for our sick and dying but Florence Nightingale seemed to know that we were going to face significant challenges ahead in nursing and in health care and she left us with this guiding principle she said were there none in the world who were discontented with what they have the world would never reach anything better and what did that means to me is in that moment of greatest challenge and despair there is the opportunity for great change where there none who were discontented they would never create the change or the innovation the world so desperately meets the answers to our current health care challenges will not be solved by the status quo our conventional practice the answers to our challenges will be found in those who embrace and cultivate a collaborative environment of innovation to drive forward and advance health care for all thank you [Applause]


  1. Great talk, I agree frontline/bedside nurses have the skills necessary to facilitate meaningful change in healthcare. I am currently utilizing the medium of shared governance to encourage/engage bedside nurses to make positive changes in processes on a microsystem level.

  2. Frontline workers can bring forward their innovation!! 👏👏👍

  3. One of the best talks I've heard. When is the next hackathon? I want to go!

  4. Addressing real problems to find real solutions. That was superb!

  5. Excellent talk!

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