Nurses play important roles in all health care access points from hospitals and physicians’ offices to community health centers, school health clinics, nursing homes, and public health departments. Since their roles in patient care across the health system provide significant opportunities to affect health outcomes, nurses at all levels need to open up to new ways of thinking and working to have the confidence and skills to create new ideas and nursing interventions to work on specific issues beyond their typical responsibilities. Here are a few examples of nurses’ innovative thinking: creating a predictive model to prevent hospital readmission by Laura Beth Brown, MSN, RN, president of Vanderbilt Home Care Services; and making pillowcases for patients with cognitive impairments to decrease patient restraint by Jan Bahle, MSN, CNS, and her team at University Hospitals Portage Medical Center in Ravenna, OH.

Innovation consists of enthusiasm and curiosity and innovation comes from creativity. Innovative thinking is not a talent, but it is a skill that needs practicing. Here are four ways to help build your innovative ideas.

1. Build on Existing Questions or Problems.

When developing innovative projects, you need to clearly define the problems that you are attempting to solve and articulate why those issues are important. Always start with the what, why, how, when question and try to answer it. List down each question that comes to mind and determine which one you think is the best. With a thorough understanding of the question or problem you are interested in innovating in, you will have a sharper eye in recognizing possibilities and be more skillful in connecting different ideas together.

If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it” —Albert Einstein

2. Think Outside the Box.

Encourage yourself to be open to new ideas without setting limiting beliefs. You should write down your thoughts and ideas into your journal or scrapbook, as this will help you keep track of your thoughts and can even stimulate your thought processes and lead to one new idea after another. Creative thinking does not require you to follow all the time; creativity is about how you associate different ideas and facts—look for the unconventional and embrace the difference.

3. Persistence.

Make the commitment to focus on the present and not let it wander from one thought to another. Do not be afraid of failure. Instead, see mistakes as opportunities or learning process for achieving your innovation.

4. Build a Network.

Strike up conversations with different people and listen to their unique perspectives, which may help you reconstruct your ideas. You may not believe that the greatest insights often come from our interactions with people who hold views opposite from ours. Also, do not forget to have fun with your colleagues as this is a proven and common way to generate ideas.

Nuananong Seal & Mary Wiske

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN, is a nurse researcher and a consultant for health promotion and health prevention research.

Mary Wiske, RN, is a retired community health nurse.

More Nursing News

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  • I would make a wager that most nurses don’t see themselves as innovators, even though we innovate all the time. In fact, nurses are probably some of the most creative, quick-thinking people in the workforce. Whether it’s determining the best way to move a patient, the best way to decrease…

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