Rebel Nurses: Nicole Lincoln’s Mission as a Nursing Innovator

Rebel Nurses: Nicole Lincoln’s Mission as a Nursing Innovator

This series takes a deeper look into the stories appearing in The Rebel Nurse Handbook, which features inspiring nurses who push the boundaries of healthcare and the nursing profession. This installment focuses on Nicole Lincoln’s work as an innovator and her mission to inspire others to become innovators as well.

“Nursing has bestowed gifts upon me which I can never pay back: independence, joy, pride, self-esteem, and purpose.”

When Nicole Lincoln decided to embark upon a nursing career, she had to power through a variety of hurdles to reach her goal. While pursuing her baccalaureate degree in Boston, she balanced pregnancy and childbirth with school, but a more serious challenge arose when her home life was afflicted by domestic violence. Forced to take refuge at a homeless shelter for women and children, Nicole managed to find subsidized housing in an apartment closer to her classes in Boston. In this new place, she found a true mentor through Catholic Charities, on which she leaned until she graduated with her BSN.

Nicole’s first nursing position was at a state hospital in 1995, during the height of the AIDS crisis. Three years later, she began work at Boston Medical Center in an intensive care unit, where she is still employed. In 2011 she felt a calling to further her education: “I wanted to be a part of innovating the evolution of the nursing profession. The recent wave of technology and advancements were monumental. Change was the only thing you could count on in medical care.”

Having attained her higher degrees as a Critical Care Nurse Specialist and Family Nurse Practitioner, Nicole became a nurse educator at Boston Medical Center and embarked on her innovation journey.

She began by investigating safety events that were occurring in the units. She worked with the front-line nurses, quality improvement specialists, and healthcare engineering students to evaluate their problems and devise solutions. One of Nicole’s most successful projects was the implementation of SAFETY (Stand at the Bedside – Assess your patient – Falls or other safety risk? – Explain the plan of care – Try to involve the patient in the plan of care – Y time for questions/clarifications), which she describes as “a standardized bedside nursing handoff with my cardiac interventional floor who had experienced serious medication errors on their unit.” As a result of their early projects, her nursing team reduced the fall rate by 76% and achieved a 25% reduction in medication error during the pilot periods.

In response to these successes, the hospital actively encouraged innovation among nurses and worked to further foster interdisciplinary cooperation between doctors and nurses. Nurses became key members of quality improvement committees, and a spin-off from “Shark Tank,” known as “Nursing Tank,” was formed to encourage nurses to create and share innovative ideas. By the end of “Nursing tank,” Nicole notes, “we had 70 ideas of which 10 were funded to move forward by the board of trustees.”

As the mission to innovate progressed, residents formed workgroups with nurses to improve communication, and physicians collaborated with nurses on Boston Medical Center’s patient safety publication, OK to Proceed. Nicole notes, “There have been major strides in the reduction of the preventable harm index and mortality observed to expected ratio. This can only be done when all members of a team feel they have a significant voice.”

Mindful of her own early experiences, Nicole is also deeply committed to helping women who are struggling to move ahead amid social, economic, and other obstacles. In addition to mentoring nursing students and graduate students from local universities, she participates in a number of initiatives, including Boston Medical Center’s hiring program for RNs with Associate degrees and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). Described by Nicole as an opportunity for “nurses who come from diverse backgrounds, are single parents or economically challenged to get started making an income faster,” RN hires at BMC are given five years to complete their BSN and receive tuition reimbursement, and CNAs are also eligible for tuition reimbursement.

Among her many activities to help nurses move forward in their careers and as innovators, Nicole also serves as a faculty member with distinction at the Boston University and BMC Leadership Academy, is a founding member of SONSIEL (Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs, and Leaders), and speaks professionally to “hopefully inspire nurses to believe in their ability to be leaders of change and innovation. “

Nicole’s tips on how to bring innovation to your unit:

  • Form a Unit Based Council to support Local Improvement
  • Share ideas with peers for improvement
  • Identify workarounds that are broken elements of the system that can be fixed
  • Identify waste
  • Identify solutions to problems
  • Engage peers in innovation ideas
  • Improve workplace teamwork
  • Embrace change
  • Work with others on the multi-disciplinary team (join committees or improvement projects)
  • Take a course on innovation or creativity (That’s what got me hooked!!)
Nurses Get Ready to Hack COVID-19 Pain Points

Nurses Get Ready to Hack COVID-19 Pain Points

During #NURSEHACK4HEALTH, nurses will come together on Microsoft Teams to apply their resourcefulness and innovative thinking to COVID-19 related healthcare problems. There’s still time to register for the virtual hackathon, which is set to begin on Friday, May 15 at 7.00PM, EST.

Presented by the Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs & Leaders (SONSIEL), Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and dev up, NURSEHACK4HEALTH is an opportunity for you to collaborate with colleagues to create a technological solution for a COVID-19 pain point. Each team will work within one of five different challenge areas (see the hackathon Home Page for details):


If you have never taken part in a hackathon, this is a great time to get started. Whether you’re a first-timer or a hackathon veteran, you should read the FAQ on the NURSEHACK4HEALTH website.

Rebel Nurses: Jalil Johnson’s Journey to Nursing Empowerment

Rebel Nurses: Jalil Johnson’s Journey to Nursing Empowerment

This series takes a look at the stories appearing in The Rebel Nurse Handbook, which features inspiring nurses who push the boundaries of healthcare and the nursing profession. This installment focuses on nurse, writer, public speaker, and acting director of Show Me Your Stethoscope, Dr. Jalil Johnson.

Jalil Johnson found his career in nursing at what might have been the lowest point of a hard life. After graduating from high school, the impoverished Tennessean was struggling. Living from paycheck to paycheck, he ultimately found himself working as a $7.00-an-hour dishwasher. Then came the night—at a time when he had no more than $10 to his name—that Johnson found himself laid off.

During the relentless job hunt that followed, a newspaper ad for free Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes caught his eye. Johnson was intrigued, but in his impoverished state, the cost of the course textbooks was beyond his means. As he sat in front of the school planning his next move, he happened to encounter the Dean of the program. The Dean was touched by Johnson’s situation and his astounding resolve. With his encouragement and assistance, Johnson applied for financial aid, enrolled in the CNA classes, and embarked upon a career in nursing.

The CNA training, and later the job itself, changed his life. After getting his CNA, Johnson decided to continue his nursing education. What inspired this decision? Johnson says, “there were many pivotal moments that encouraged me to pursue higher education. An important moment was the sense of absolute fulfillment I felt after working with my first patient as a CNA. Until that point in my life, I’d never actually helped a person with their care, health, or with the simple aim to make their life a little better. When my patient sincerely said ‘thank you so much’ to me that day, I knew I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to do this work. I wanted to expand my ability to have positive impact on people.”

Johnson spent the next two decades climbing the professional ladder: he became an LPN, an RN, was awarded a BSN, went on to take his master’s degree and training as a Nurse Practitioner, and later received his PhD as a nurse scientist. “Each time I completed another degree or level of licensure, my scope of practice and experience changed. The impact I had on patients wasn’t better with more education, but it was different. I enjoyed being challenged in this way. I continued this way of thinking through my studies, including my journey to become a nurse practitioner and nurse scientist (PhD).” Along the way, he worked in positions ranging from traveling nurse, to ICUs and EDs, to substance use treatment programs and behavioral health, and teaching CNA, LPN, RN, and DNP students. “I’ve never forgotten how amazing it feels to empower someone else,” he says.

Empowerment is a keyword for Johnson, who vividly recalls “the powerlessness I often felt throughout my career. Regardless of my level of practice, I always felt that the work and the care could be better, but I never felt I had any power to really change anything. My assumption was that more education would lead to having more say in my practice, and subsequently less feelings of powerlessness. Well, I was wrong about that. The powerless feeling followed me throughout many practice settings and scopes of practice.”

Johnson sought ways to overcome this sense of powerlessness, and found that his views were shared by “hundreds of thousands of nurses out there, who love their work as I do, but also feel like the healthcare system doesn’t work for them or their patients.” Seeking empowerment for himself and his fellow nurses, he began to work in self-advocacy with communities like Show Me Your Stethoscope and Nurses Take DC, and became a writer and public speaker.

When asked what he feels most passionate about in his career, Johnson replies, “I’m passionate about many things. I enjoy caring for my patients and love teaching. However, I’m most passionate about inspiring other bedside nurses to unify behind causes they believe in. As the largest profession within healthcare, I believe nurses have the opportunity to be truly revolutionary if we band together and support each other. This is one of the ideas that motivated me to start writing my forthcoming book, Nation of Nurses, where I discuss specific ways nurses can mobilize and revolutionize healthcare.”

He is also passionate regarding his advocacy groups: “these online communities are filled with bedside nurses who are passionate about improving the nursing and the healthcare system. Honestly, through this work, for the first time in nearly 20 years, I feel like nurses are taking back their power; and this gives me so much hope.”

Rebel Nurses: Jalil Johnson’s Journey to Nursing Empowerment

Brittany Molkenthin’s Early Call to Innovation

This series takes a look at the stories appearing in The Rebel Nurse Handbook, which features inspiring nurses who push the boundaries of healthcare and the nursing profession. This installment focuses on Brittany Molkenthin and the pivotal moment of her innovative nursing career.

In her junior year of nursing school, Brittany Molkenthin envisioned a new premise for a major maternal healthcare innovation. While shadowing a Lactation Consultant in the maternity ward, she encountered a mother attempting to breastfeed for the first time. What should have been a beautiful and life-affirming experience quickly went south. After months of planning to breastfeed her first-born child, multiple classes, and a volume of research, she had continuous trouble with positioning the baby, each time unable to get the right latch. The few times it worked, neither the mother nor the attending staff had any way of gauging how much milk the baby was receiving. After the numerous attempts that afternoon, an overall exasperation filled the room, accompanied by tears running down both the baby’s and the mother’s face. Desperate for her baby to eat, she asked for formula and a bottle.

Brittany replayed the incident over and over, throughout the
day and later that night. As a student, she was directly exposed to the concept
of innovation and the pain point/solution mindset through her school’s
Healthcare Innovations Program. Musing upon the dilemma, she identified the
pain point as the inability to register how much milk a baby was receiving from
its mother. A solution, she surmised, would be to develop “a device that
accurately calculated the amount of breast milk that infants receive during

After working with a team of biomedical engineers to develop
a working prototype, Brittany was ready to enter in her university’s “Shark
Tank” event. Although she did not win the competition, she was undeterred.
Brittany reached out to one of the event’s judges to discuss plans for her
device further and, thereafter, push forward with her startup. The year after
graduation, she filed a provisional patent and launched into a flurry of
networking, pitch decks, and attendance at innovation events.

While applying for startup business grants and working to
keep her nascent company alive, Brittany had her hands full: employed as a
bedside RN in pediatric intensive care and simultaneously studying to become a
pediatric primary care NP. Her breastmilk gauging device, Manoula, is designed to inform
“mothers and providers how much breastmilk a baby has consumed” and share the
data via wireless technology. The product is moving toward its alpha prototype
and is expected to enter the market in 2021.

DailyNurse asked Brittany: What was the hardest part
of starting your LLC and creating a new medical device? And what was the most

She responded, “the hardest part about starting an LLC and
creating a medical device was the mere fact of starting with no previous
medical device development, business, or entrepreneurial background. I thought
I was going to be a nurse, that was it… I never imagined it would get this
far. The most rewarding aspect is seeing how far the company and the device has
come since that drawing of my “vision” started as a Crayola picture
and a school project. It is amazing to think this device will be in the hands
of breastfeeding mothers someday.”

Brittany also has some advice for any nurse who has an innovative idea and is interested in turning it into a new product: “Find a team. Team is essential to the success of any startup or any innovative idea. A team that shares your passion, drive, and vision can help bring an innovative idea to fruition.”

Listen to the Chapter Podcasts for Jonas and Kovner's Health Care Delivery in the United States

Gain a better understanding of the current state of the US health care system and how it might impact your work and life.

You have Successfully Subscribed!