What Is a Nurse Innovator?

Throughout history, innovators have positively impacted society and healthcare. For instance, take the contributions of Thomas Edison’s light bulb, Karl Benz’s automobile and Earle Dickson’s Band-Aid to our quality of life. Artificial illumination allows nurses and physicians to examine patients and perform operations, ambulances perform a lifesaving function by expediting care delivery, and adhesive bandages cover cuts to help prevent infection.

Nurses can also be innovators who improve patient care through the changes and improvements they make.

How Can Innovation Help in Nursing?

Innovation that involves devising an alternative to an old method or adapting an existing product in a novel way can have the favorable results such as:

  • Improving patient care
  • Reducing costs
  • Increasing efficiency

What Is a Nurse Innovator?

The formal role of a nurse innovator involves cultivating and advocating for the development of concepts and processes that elevate healthcare. Additionally, nurse innovators build partnerships with other healthcare professionals and institutions for collaborative work. They may have working relationships with:

  • Staff nurses
  • Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary team members
  • Schools of engineering, design and medicine

Can All Nurses Be Innovators?

Yes. All nurse can be innovators. They do not need the title of nurse innovator to uncover a practice that benefits patients. Nurses are at the forefront of patient care, and most of them have probably needed to find ways to resolve a tough situation through innovation.

How Does a Bachelor’s Degree Prepare Nurses to be Innovators?

Completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program equips RNs prepared at the associate or diploma level with the skills to become nurse innovators.

In an RN to BSN program, nurses learn the proficiencies and practices that will help them innovate. Students are taught to think creatively. They also learn how to use research and evidence to answer questions and overcome challenges. They may apply the following skills to innovation:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision-making
  • Problem-solving

What Are Some Innovations Credited to Nurses?

Here are just a few of the many innovations nurses have contributed to healthcare:

  • Florence Nightingale (1850s) – Nightingale came up with nurse rounding, a food delivery plan in hospitals and a bell system for calling nurses. She also established the polar-area diagram, a statistical tool that tracked the number of deaths due to disease, wounds and other causes during the Crimean War.
  • Sister Jean Ward (1950s) – When Ward was the charge nurse of a unit for premature babies, she routinely brought infants outside for fresh air and sunshine. Physicians noticed that exposure to sunlight helped jaundiced babies lose their yellow hue. This prompted the use of artificial light, known as phototherapy, to lower bilirubin levels thereby alleviating infant jaundice.
  • Anita Dorr (1960s) – Dorr was an emergency nurse who noticed that it took too long for staff to gather supplies and equipment during a crisis. With her husband’s help, she constructed a cart and stocked it with essentials for treating critically ill patients. She called it the Emergency Nursing Crisis Cart. But, today it is known as the Crash Cart.
  • Terri Barton-Salinas and Gail Barton-Hay (2003) – These nurses saw a need to be able to quickly and accurately distinguish which lines are connected to intravenous (IV) catheters, pumps or ports used in an intensive care unit (ICU) and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The clear plastic lines made this difficult so they came up with the idea to color-code the lines.

Nurses can be inventive and resourceful. They can combine their nursing knowledge and caregiving experience with ingenuity to modify impractical methods and devise useful innovations.

Nurses who want to expand their nursing competencies to include innovation should consider furthering their nursing education. An online RN to BSN program equips nurses with the critical-thinking skills required to identify areas for change and to originate innovations and strategies that improve care delivery.

Learn more about UL Lafayette’s online RN to BSN program.


DailyNurse: 4 Ways to Build Innovative Ideas into Nursing Practice

SPOK: 6 Healthcare Innovations You May Not Know Were Created by Nurses

Nurse.com: Nurse Innovators (Yes, It’s a Real Job)

EMT-Resourses.com: History of Ambulances

Intercall: History of Nurse Call

Plus.Maths.Org: Introducing Florence Nightingale

Reflections on Nursing Leadership: Finding a Better Way: Nurses and Innovation

New Jersey Monthly: Motherlode of Invention

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Registered Nurses Leading Innovative Changes

RN.com: RNs Putting Innovative Ideas to Work

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