Nursing's Evolving Role in Innovation Strategy

Elizabeth Lopez; Jackie L. Gonzalez; Jennifer A. Cordo; Manuella Janvier-Anglade; Therese A. Fitzpatrick


Nurs Econ. 2019;37(3):159-163. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Based on their commitment to improving patient outcomes and their extensive bedside experience, nurses often are the best of creative problem-solvers for patients and their families. Innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities arise during unique moments of problem identification by nurses working with patients. The nurse executive has a distinctive role in developing and supporting a culture that brings such moments to the forefront in search of innovative ways to create solutions in care provision.


Canadian researchers at the University of Waterloo recently reported results of their large-sample study of whether and how the language about patients' health used by nurses in nursing notes correlates with actual patient mortality and survival (Waudby-Smith, Tran, Dubin, & Lee, 2018). Based on unstructured notes extracted from 27,000 patient records in a public intensive care unit database, researchers used a "sentiment analysis algorithm" and regression modeling to assess the words nurses used and patient mortality and survival.

The team determined there was a significant correlation between the adjectives used by critical care nurses in describing a patient's health status and 30-day mortality post discharge; a positive correlation (although more limited) also existed between nurse-note adjectives and survival. The researchers suggested that unstructured clinical notes authored by hospital nursing staff can serve as indicators of clinical outcomes and should be further studied and incorporated in clinical outcomes prediction models.

As leaders, our initial response to this report was admittedly along the lines of "well, of course that makes sense;" many nurses would not be at all surprised by these findings. Present with critically ill patients around the clock and prepared with expert assessment skills, nurses are finely in tune with the most subtle nuances in patient response to illness and various treatment efforts.

It didn't take long for our entrepreneurial predisposition to kick in. Rather than simply discussing this study with colleagues, what if we could use our expertise in nursing assessment, intervention and outcome classification, informatics, and process design to develop a means to search records in real time for predictive signals, and then develop protocols to initiate treatments to reverse indications of a dangerous physiological decline? And what if we could raise capital through a venture capital (VC) company to fund our development efforts and eventually commercialize the processes, technology, and product? This path would allow others to benefit from the innovation while enabling the funding company to make a financial return.