Innovation & Entrepreneurship – The Coalition for the Future

Nurses are present with patients around-the-clock and are often the most knowledgeable about what is most needed for them. They are also the most trusted health care profession by patients.  These are assets that are relatively untapped in the growing realm of innovation and entrepreneurship.  Nurses need to take a more active role in innovating health reform by improving the patient and family healthcare experience. Nurses require knowledge and design tools that make them partners in the enterprise of innovation and entrepreneurship. The Nurse Innovation & Entrepreneurship initiative provides nurses with the design tools and support needed to be competitive as entrepreneurs.


Engineers, businessmen, programmers, designers and other disciplines have been instrumental in designing advances in the medical field. They understand the concept of design and what they are hoping to achieve, but lack the direct patient knowledge that is essential in allowing these improvements to work. They understand the concept of the equipment but do not understand the patient’s experience. They lack direct knowledge of what a patient actually needs or how the patient feels about a particular procedure or tool.

An example of this is a wheelchair improvement. Designers may consider changes that will make a wheelchair easier to steer. Patients, on the other hand, may not be so concerned about the steering. They may actually need improvements on how a wheelchair navigates on ground that is uneven, grassy, etc. Nurses know how patients function and need to relate this to the designers. That is the second half of the equation.

Once I became Dean of Northeastern University one year ago, my goal became to bring these two halves of the equation together to create a way to approach innovation and entrepreneurship from a multi-discipline perspective in order to create the best possible experience for everyone. That is how the Summit and hackathon was born.

Summit and Hackathon

I intended the Summit to be the initial step in bringing my ideas to fruition. To start, those from the Northeastern University Nursing faculty met with Design School Faculty. Design faculty teach the re-design of the human experience. A primary phenomena of concern for nurses is the patient experience within the health care environment.  The merge of the nursing and design school faculty resulted in the design of nurses as participants of the nurse innovation and entrepreneurship summit. The Summit provided nurse attendees the awareness of the design cycle and the tools needed for innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Hackathon follows the incubation of ideas from the summit—mixing various disciplines to further develop ideas and build innovative prototypes. Nurses worked with teams of engineers, computer programmers, and business people, to name a few.

Nineteen initial teams stepped forward to pitch their ideas for the Hackathon. It was beyond anything we expected. The concept was simple. Each team was to “hack” an idea and then bring it into reality by the end of the Hackathon.

Of the original nineteen teams, nine actually made it through to the end of the project creating incredible results. Three teams were given awards and two Honorable Mentions at the end of the Hackathon. The top team called TLELCODE- developed a system for ensuring that every patient in the hospital who has a cardiac arrest will receive immediate attention by experts who can run the code.  Using a telehealth system, lives will be saved.  The team that placed second—ARE YOU CONTAGIOUS?—developed a system for alerting parents and public health providers when outbreaks of illness and contagious conditions erupt in school systems.  The third team winner was—SHARENONYMOUS—an app based platform that allows college students who are feeling anxious or depressed to connect anonymously with student counselors and mental health resources.  With the huge success of this project, we will be making it a regular event.

Current Events

Currently, we work with businesses to sponsor nurses developing ideas and entrepreneurship.

Rebecca Love leads two seminars in entrepreneurship—Nurse Business 101 Seminar and Nurse Startup Academy starting June 29, 2016 at Northeastern University.  She helps nurses experience the power they have to lead entrepreneurial enterprises. Nurse’s hands-on patient knowledge becomes the resource for innovation. Nurses have the power and knowledge to lead innovation and entrepreneurship in the healthcare community as a whole.

Follow the Leaders

Northeastern University leads at entrepreneurship.  Until now, nurses have not been actively engaged as entrepreneurs.  However, I build on their success to bring nurses into the space of innovation and entrepreneurship. Northeastern successfully merges academic learning and the interest of businesses and corporations.  Northeastern University School of Nursing leads nursing education teaching entrepreneurs of health care reform.

Nursing students are unaware of innovative programs and the benefit to their careers.  I want to make them aware of entrepreneurship and give them the tools to redesign the patient experience.  They will have much more to offer the growing interest in health care reform.

The Nurse Innovation & Entrepreneurship Summit and Hackathon held such importance. It reached out to nursing students and nurses in practice. It was designed to reach both current and future nurses and show those already following this career that it is never become an entrepreneur.

Power of Current Nurses

As I reached out to the community and visited many medical facilities, it became clear that many of our current nurses are reaching retirement age. This group of seasoned nurses is an invaluable asset because they know so well the strengths and weaknesses of the health care system.

These nurses spent years seeing what works and what doesn’t in regards to medical care. They know what patients and families need.  Throughout their careers as nurses, they have often needed to design ways to solve problems.  They haven’t, however, had design knowledge and skills that could bring those ideas into reality. They lacked design tools and business skills to develop and bring forth innovative solutions to fruition. Our program reaches these seasoned nurses and empowers them use their knowledge to bring about needed health care changes.

Our Website

Our website– — gives nurses a place to go when they have ideas. It will be filled with the knowledge and tools needed to network with others to get their ideas from their minds to the world as a whole. The Business school, Engineering and Bio-tech schools are on standby to support with these nurses.

We have only begun and I know this path will be one of adventure. The world is ready for the joining of multidisciplinary forces who will embrace the benefits that come from people of great skill joining their talents and experience to benefit the health care community, particularly patients and families.

I Wasn’t Alone

While I envisioned a goal, I could not have accomplished it without the aid of many others.

Thank you to our top corporate sponsor—Exergen—who stepped up to the plate and offered tremendous support for both the conference and the Hackathon.

Thanks also to our foundation sponsors, the Macy Foundation, the Hartford Foundation, and the Hillman Foundation. Their funding showed their confidence in this project and made this summit/hackathon possible.

Next, nurse leaders in the major health systems played a huge role by not only providing funding, but also supported nurses to come to the conference. Thanks must be given to Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts Medical Center, Children’s Hospital, Newton Wellesley Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The Future

I witnessed a great beginning to a journey that will form nurse leaders to be innovators and entrepreneurs in the health care industry. The road ahead will not be easy, but it will be well worth the effort. Not only will the healthcare field benefit, but also every discipline involved will grow and, in the end, the patient will be the greatest benefactor.

I look forward to bringing about this new world and am excited to watch it unfold each day. We can create a program here that will be a model for others to follow. Of that, I am absolutely positive.