A key step to fostering innovation is creating an environment in which it thrives. At The John A. Hartford Foundation, a center dedicated to improving the quality of care of older adults, degrees and education vary significantly, ranging from RNs, MPAs, PhDs, and MPHs and so on. The variety in the skill set of the staff creates the perfect environment for creating multidisciplinary teams, fostering partnerships, and improving overall creative potential. Working in a setting that has a diverse group of people with differing backgrounds, education, and experiences is the ideal habitat for innovation.
Perhaps the biggest example of innovation I have seen at The John A. Hartford Foundation comes directly from its President, Terry Fulmer. Dr. Fulmer is a registered nurse by training, but more than that she is an educator, humanitarian, patient advocate, researcher, and leading expert in the field of elder abuse and mistreatment. Terry constantly pushes boundaries in the way we look at aging and healthcare and her passion for nursing and patient care is palpable.
Always trying to improve nursing care for elderly patients, Dr. Fulmer left her mark on the geriatric nursing community by leading the development of the Geriatric Resource Nurse program and improving geriatric care training for registered nurses. She also worked to develop the Elder Assessment Instrument, which has become one of the most common medical checklists in the United States for examining elderly patients. She continued to break the mold by serving as the first nurse on the board of the American Geriatrics Society and as the first nurse to serve as president of the Gerontological Society of America.
All of her success in the field of nursing and elder care stems from her dedication to geriatrics and geronotology and that is when I learned one of the most important things in my time at the Foundation; innovation is a direct result of passion. Being truly invested in what you do and having constant motivation for your field of work is ultimately what will produce positive outcomes and make things happen.
Experts like Dr. Peter Senge suggest that innovation is a process that brings creativity to measurable outcomes, actions, products, or processes (Senge, 1994). The John A. Hartford Foundation is a superb example of the power of innovation in producing favorable outcomes.
Innovation is a necessary characteristic for any organization, whether in the corporate world or the clinical world and through my time at the John A. Hartford Foundation, I’ve learned that the key to innovation is truly to invest yourself in your work, tap into the passion for what you do and great things can come of it. Witnessing firsthand the fervor and zeal of the staff at The John A. Hartford Foundation, it was clear to me that where there is a will, there is most certainly a way.
Stepping into The John A. Hartford Foundation for the first time, I was not sure what to expect. As an undergraduate co-op student embarking on my first foray into the professional world of healthcare, I was brimming with excitement, but also slightly tentative, wondering where I would fit into this unique foundation. Six months later, I have approached the end of my time here and I have emerged a confident young leader and advocate for older adults, filled with more knowledge than I could have ever imagined, including some valuable lessons on innovation.
Senge, P. (1994). The fifth discipline handbook. New York: Doubleday.