Nurses: Have You Ever Had An Idea That Would Improve Healthcare?

The Past

Nurses make up the largest employment block in the United States – with over 3.1 million Registered Nurses – and nearly another 1 million Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs).

What one may not realize, is that this “healthcare commodity” is drying up – with the average age of a nurse 55 years old in the United States (meaning 50% of nurses in this country are over the age of 55 – and actually over 70% of nurses in this country are over the age of 40) and 50% of new nursing graduates reportedly leaving bedside nursing within 2 years of practice – the future of nursing is not nearly as certain as it was in the past.

As nurses, we are taught skills on how to recognize changes of status, know when things are going from bad to worse and fight against the odds of disease and illness to save the lives of our patients.  As nurses we constantly analyze, tweak and refine products we have on hand to provide solutions for our patients.  Historically though, we are not taught that we could take that idea and turn it into a concept for a product, business or service.  That is why when the opportunity to join the First Ever Nurse Innovation & Entrepreneurship Summit & Hackathon arose I knew I wanted to be apart of it. It is the first event in this history of nursing education that is going to teach nurses how to take an idea and turn it into a product and give nurses the tools they need to begin the process on starting their own companies.  It’s an event for every nurse who has ever thought, “I can make this better.”

The Present

The other day I received a call from a nurse who was inquiring about the Nurse Innovation & Entrepreneurship Summit & Hackathon. She had a been a nurse for the past 15 years in endoscopy and for every day she worked, she reconfigured a device so it would work better to keep her patients safe.  She told me, I can sketch out what needs to be developed, I make it every day with the supplies I have on hand, but it would be so much better if it were just made “like this.”

As I listened to her talk, I grew more and more excited about her product as it truly is brilliant! She told me she didn’t know where to go from here and was hoping that this event may help her know where to begin.

As a nurse entrepreneur myself, I knew exactly how she felt.  When I started off building, I could find no fellow nurse entrepreneur in which to speak with about how to start a company. I second guessed myself from day one as to whether I was doing things right, I made mistake after mistake, and if it hadn’t been for random moments of luck and kindness from unexpected individuals, I’m not sure HireNurses would ever have made it out of year one.

On the hospital floors and by the bedsides of our patients, nurses are often faced with situations in which the supplies they have on hand do not address the challenges we face with our patients.  Nurses, being the innovators they are, reconfigure what they have on hand to meet the needs of their patients.  It’s what we do as nurses – we figure out solutions for our patients – without realizing that the solution we just created possibly could change the future of healthcare.

This is the life of a nurse, when we don’t have what we need; we make it with what we have on hand.  We know how things could work better, should work easier for the patient, for the nurse, for healthcare. We constantly tweak the supplies we have that operate in one way, to operate in others, we cut, change, tape and reconfigure supplies to better-fit patients and answer problems where currently a solution is absent. But what we do not do is to ever think that those changes we’ve made, those “MacGyver” moves and products we configure could become something far more significant than just helping the patient at hand. As nurses we don’t think that we could possibly turn this “MacGyver’d” Nasal Cannula into a new product because we as nurses are focused on the patient at hand, caring for them with the resources we have and continuing to “MacGyver” what we need.

The Future

For nearly a century, nursing education has largely consisted of the same degrees and opportunities for nurses. We are to graduate with a degree and care for patients, regardless of what level degree you obtain, that basic overriding principal exists.  Nursing education is a carefully monitored and regulated program that is established to meet qualifying criteria with the goal to produce a commodity of nurses to support healthcare.  There is however, so much opportunity in nursing education, to do so much more.  And the change has begun….

Northeastern University, one of the leading Nursing Schools in the Country, is taking Nursing Education in a new direction of innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership and they are kicking this off with the first ever Nursing Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Summit & Hackathon in Boston June 17-19th.  This revolutionary event is the first of its kind in the country and will be “the benchmark/the beginning/the catalyst” in the changing of the future of Nursing Education and Opportunity.  Northeastern plans on launching new nursing degree programs that will forever change the future of opportunities in nursing education. Northeastern is empowering nurses in the skills they posses and changing the way they think about problems and solutions that will ultimately inspire the next generation of healthcare products and devices and hopefully the next generation of young people to become nurses. The future of nursing education is as exciting as the endless opportunities that will be available to nurses.

The future of healthcare innovation lays in the hands of nurses as any product, service or program that is designed for healthcare is going to need to engage with nurses to develop and implement these products as nurses are the end users of nearly 90% of any product in healthcare. For years, industries and businesses have developed products without engaging with nurses on the products they are producing and many of these products have repeatedly gone on to fail to be adopted.  Why? Because many of these products made more work for the nurses, did less for the patients and overall failed to improve outcomes. What we’ve learned is that many of these products when under development never engaged with a nurse in its design. Nurses are at the front lines of healthcare, they understand patients, diseases and illness, but most importantly they understand how to initiate and engage in care. Nurses are the eyes, ears and hands of healthcare and any product in healthcare for large-scale use will touch the hands of a nurse and therefore nurses should engage with the device in it’s conception, design and build.

The truth is that nurses are amazing innovators and their “MacGyver’d” creations can and will change the future of healthcare for the better. The problem was that before, there was never a place for a nurse to go and realize that what they do every day at the bedside could be the start of a company, a product and a solution in healthcare.  At least it never existed before the first ever Nurse Innovation Summit & Hackathon at Northeastern University, June 17-19 in Boston.  It’s the first event to take nurses and put them at the forefront of innovation and it’s an event that every nurse should attend.

This event is so revolutionary in it’s scope, that the FDA is sending a specialist from their Device and Manufacturing department to attend this event to help nurses understand how to patent their ideas and get through the FDA approval process.  That says a lot about what this event means to the future of healthcare – this summit and Hackathon is going to change the future of innovation in healthcare. This is all happening because Northeastern University recognized that the future of healthcare rests in the hands of nursing and that the time is now for nursing education, after nearly a century of being stagnant in reform, to catch up to the endless opportunities for nurses ahead.

There are moments in life, events in life, which can change ones future. The first ever Nurse Innovation & Entrepreneurship Summit & Hackathon just happens to be one of these events and you don’t want to miss it.