RNs Putting Innovative Ideas to Work

By Debra Wood, RN, Contributor

RNs Putting Innovative Ideas to WorkNurses are instrumental in improving the quality of patient care through innovative ideas, based on observations at the bedside and knowledge of best-practices. An innovative idea may serve to help one patient overcome a disturbing symptom, while innovation applied in clinical practice could lead to quality improvement initiatives that end up benefiting many patients (American Nurses Association, 2013). Listed below are just a few of the things today’s innovative nurses have been able to accomplish.

Predictive care models: Use information from electronic medical records (EMRs) to identify patients most likely to need specialized services, such as home health care. With success in correctly identifying these patients, the health system can use the data to predict patients at risk for pressure ulcers, falls and readmissions, and then take action to specifically address these issues.

Inspired infant wear: Nurses can be creative in pioneering tools and devices that can improve patient care, when a need is identified in the clinical setting. This creativity can improve patient care, comfort and outcomes when innovative ideas are put to work.

Jonelle Krier, an OB nurse in Duluth, Minnesota, came up with an idea for an infant body suit with an opening that provides umbilical exposure, after becoming frustrated with parents’ struggles with air-drying the cord. The one-piece garments are now used in some hospital nurseries. Krier won a Huggies® Mom Inspired™ grant, which has helped her expand the line to offer additional colors and designs (Huggies, 2013). This is an example of how nurses can change industry standards to improve patient care.

Caregiver connections: At the other end of the lifecycle, nurses can use innovative ideas to improve end-of-life care. Nursing professor Kristen Mauk, PhD, DNP, RN, CRRN, GCNS-BC, GNP-BC, FAAN, president of Senior Care Central in Valparaiso, Ind., addressed two needs with her innovative solution to help older adults “age in place” while giving nursing students and nursing assistants (CNAs) more experience working with people. She connects care seekers with potential caregivers online, and the care arrangements are made directly between the two entities.

Safety campaigns for healthcare professionals: Most professionals working in potentially dangerous environments utilize safety gear to protect them from personal injury. Yet , there are 5.6 million healthcare personnel in the U.S that lack access to safety-engineered medical devices that can protect them from occupational exposure to blood borne pathogens (Safe In Common, 2013).

Mary Foley, PhD, RN, chairperson of the Safe in Common campaign to prevent needlestick injuries, has reached out to student nurses and clinicians in practice outside of hospitals and is using online petitions and social media as well as traditional media to call attention to the continuing problem of needlesticks and the need for safer products. She called safer work environments a critical link to patient safety.

Collaborative care clinics: Academic nurses innovate, too. Nurses at the Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, Texas, came up with an idea for an inter-professional and collaborative health care clinic, and received federal funds for a demonstration project to develop the clinic on the city’s east side, which has a population of primarily lower-income, African-American residents (UIW, 2013).

The Nurse Education, Practice, Quality & Retention (NEPQR) Program-Interprofessional Collaborative Practice is a three-year cooperative agreement. It provides funds to support the development of safe, efficient, effective and equitable healthcare in collaborative practice environments (UIW, 2013).

Hospital innovation units with new nurse roles: Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has taken the concept of innovation to another level, creating initially 12 Innovation Units that evaluate the patient journey, make care safer, increase continuity and interdisciplinary care, and boost the time nurses can spend with patients. Early signs of success indicate that this initiative has been successful in decreasing the length of stay on units by 5% percent so far (Massachusetts General Hospital, 2013). By sharing best practices and standardizing whenever possible, these innovative units hope to continue to improve systems, refine care delivery, and promote interprofessional collaboration to improve patient care and outcomes.

Motivational tools: Aiming to find a deliberate means of encouraging a discouraged patient, Michelle Leslie, RN, an inpatient nurse at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia, came up with a goal-setting and reward system, using large, poster-sized Post-Its to brighten up the patient’s room (Peppers & Rogers Group, 2013) . She helped the patient fill the Post-Its with statements and positive affirmations like, “I will walk through the hall today during physical therapy.” Once a page became full, Leslie would organize a “dance party” where the nurses, family and friends celebrated joyfully. Now the unit has another tool for motivating patients.

Mobile discharge instructions: Cheryl Bailey, RN, MBA, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Cullman Regional Medical Center in Cullman, Ala., embraces technology as a way to innovate and improve patient care (Cullman Medical Center, 2013).

Bailey decided to let the hospital serve as a beta site to help develop Good to Go, a mobile health platform, during which nurses record discharge instructions on an iPod. These self-care directions and educational videos, created in house, are available by phone or Internet to the patients and their family caregivers and have improved communication on inpatient and other units. Bailey randomly listens to the recordings, creating an accountability factor.


American Nurses Association (2013). Delivering Quality and Innovation in Patient Care. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/FunctionalMenuCategories/AboutANA/NationalNursesWeek/Delivering-Quality-and-Innovation-in-Patient-Care.html

Cullman Medical Center (2013). Good to Go Discharge Instructions. For Patients & Guests. Retrieved from http://www.crmchospital.com/for_patients_guests/good-to-go_discharge_instructions.aspx

Huggies Mom Inspired Grant Program (2013).2012 Winners. Retrieved from https://www.huggiesmominspired.com/inspiredmoms

Massachusetts General Hospital (2013). Early data points to success of Innovation Units Newsletters & Publications: MGH Hotline. Retrieved from http://www.massgeneral.org/News/assets/pdf/HTL111612.pdf

Peppers & Rogers Group (2013). Customer Strategist. Patient-Centric Innovation Leads the Fight Against Cancer. Retrieved from http://www.peppersandrogersgroup.com/view.aspx?docid=34141

Safe In Common (2013). Mission. Retrieved from http://www.safeincommon.org/mission

University of the Incarnate Word [UIW], (2013).UIW awarded funding for university-wide initiative. The Word Online. Retrieved from http://www.uiw.edu/thewordonline/2013/03/uiw-awarded-funding-for-university-wide-initiative/

© 2013. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Biography: Debra Wood is a registered nurse and writer living in Orlando, Fla., with her two dogs. She has received the international nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau’s media award for excellence in journalism, as well as writer’s association honors for her creative work.