The COVID-19 context
The profile of nurses and midwives as health innovators has risen exponentially over the last decade, largely due to the rapid advancement of new health technologies, the ongoing progression of evidence-based medicine and the devastation caused by COVID-19. Collectively this has caused increased stress for nurses and midwives, who have never been in more demand despite being under-resourced (Aksoy & Koçak, 2020). Health organisations are also feeling the effects of this as low staffing levels, reduced funding and limited availability of resources have significant implications on staff wellbeing and the day-to-day running of the wider healthcare system. To improve the challenges nurses and midwives fundamentally face, system-level change is required (Shifaza & Hamiduzzaman, 2019).
It is clear that we are fully engaged with digital transformations, but innovation and change initiation are yet too often imposed on frontline workers. Recent studies show that nurse and midwifery leaders still lack the skills and competencies to deal with technology advancement and knowledge obsolescence (Sherrod et al., 2019; Strudwick et al., 2019). Interestingly, new organisations such as the Society of Nurse Scientists Innovators Entrepreneurs & Leaders (SONSIEL) or the Nursing Innovation Hub (NIHUB) in the United States have quickly emerged to fill in the gap at national and international levels to support nurse and midwifery-led innovation and entrepreneurship. Have you yet participated in a hackathon?
Hack your way in hackathons are events orientated towards teamwork, ideation, creativity and problem-solving. Private and public organisations increasingly fund them to upskill workforces in innovation and bring new ideas to old problems. The Australian healthcare sector is increasingly getting involved with organisations such as GovHack and Hackathons Australia. Those are great events to begin your innovation journey or remain fit in change management, service design and entre/intrapreneurship as a mentor.
Become an innovation champion
Looking towards the future, nursing and midwifery innovators require a workplace more accepting of change. Questionably, this requires system-level modifications that employ four key principles: (1) developing collaborative relationships between clinicians, managers and executives, (2) creating workplaces that embrace positive change activities, (3) investing in agents of change, people who embrace the future and inspire positive behaviours in others.
Getting started as a nurse innovator and or entrepreneur, here are some ideas for you to consider as you build your idea:
- Be Confident: Be confident in your own ability to be a change agent. Recognise the power and strength within yourself
- Evaluate Your Idea: Ask yourself what is the problem you’re trying to solve? Do many people have the same problem?
- Complete an analysis: What else is out there? Do your own research and see what solutions already exist. Who is the competition? Is your solution innovative in some way? Does it offer something the other solutions do not?
- Talk to a Mentor: A mentor can help you get your innovation off the ground or suggest ideas that you might not have thought of on your own.
- Fail Well: Do not be afraid to fail. The lessons learned from experiencing failure can be the pivotal point in your entrepreneurial experience.
Nurses and midwives are in the best position to understand firsthand the care experience and delivery process. Every day, we see opportunities for improvement. Every nurse/midwife has numerous innovative ideas from day to day in a single shift. These are the embers of innovation!