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Turn ideas into reality

I have an idea! Now what?

By: Marion Leary, MPH, MSN, RN

Nurses often reach out to me for advice — they have an innovation idea and don’t know what to do next. This is rarely taught in nursing school, which is why I love having these conversations with nurses and nursing students.

Below is my starter guide to beginning to bring an idea from conception to fruition. Note though, creating a new innovation is multilayered, there are many steps and levels of complexity along the way, this is just the basics, a starting place:

  1. Put it down on paper — The first and most important thing you can do is to really plan out your idea. Create a 1-pager document that lays out the following questions: What is the problem? Who is your population? How does your innovation idea work? How does it solve the problem? Does something like this already exist? If so, who are your competitors and how are you different? What other team members will you need (engineers, designers, technicians, other)
  2. Do some research — Before you spend too much time planning out your idea do some research to see if your idea already exists. If it does, take time to consider how your idea will be different or better. Additionally, it is always a good idea to do some contextual inquiry; talk with the people who the problem affects to see if your idea is something they think will actually help — and be interested in seeing come to market.
  3. Know the rules — If you work at a university or within a health system your idea (or intellectual property related to your innovation) may actually be partly owned by your employer. Talk to your Technology Transfer Office (or related office) to understand who owns the rights and how to move forward. This office should also be able to discuss with you the patentability of your idea and the process for that, if needed. Not every idea is patentable but if it is, there are some rules and regulations around that to be aware of in the beginning. #themoreyouknow
  4. Get involved —This could be a new space for you and as such, it would be good to start meeting people and learning more. There are a number of different groups and events that cater to nurses interested in innovation and entrepreneurship. Begin engaging with those that best meet your needs as these are great ways to learn what other nurses are doing in this space, how they are doing it, and to network and get advice. I would recommend the following:


Events (to start, there are plenty more):

Make sure to also check out your local scene to see what accelerators, incubators, hackathons, and other innovation events might be taking place. For example, in Philly we have the B.PHL Innovation Festival, among others; though not nursing-specific it is a great way to meet people and learn more about the innovation space. There is no shortage of these types of events, I assure you!

  1. Get social — Social media is a great way to connect with other nurse innovators and entrepreneurs, especially on LinkedIn, Clubhouse, and Twitter. If you are not on these platforms, I highly recommend creating an account and engaging on them. Searching with the hashtag #nurseinnovation #nurseentrepreneur #nursinginnovation etc., will help you find and connect with other like-minded nurses. You can learn more about the different platforms and how best to use them from a previous Yes, and… article.
  2. Get educated — There are several resources out there to help you learn more about the nurse-led innovation and entrepreneurship space. For example, the Design Thinking for Health platform, created by Penn Nursing in partnership with the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation, is a free, online platform to help nurses learn about nursing innovation and design thinking. If you are a nurse working at an academic institution read the Academic Entrepreneurship book, a free, open education resource. If you are looking for a bit more education check out the Drexel-SONSIEL Nurse Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate program. There is also a plethora of nurse-led podcast focused on innovation and entrepreneurship including some of my favorites: Amplify Nursing (full disclosure, I am the host of this podcast), SEE YOU KNOW, Outcomes Rocket, At the Core of Care, and many others you can find here.

I know sometimes it can feel like you are alone on this journey, but you are not! There is a large community of nurse innovators waiting to help guide you and your idea — you just need to know where to start. Hopefully, this will help get you started on your path, and if all else fails, just connect with me! As I mentioned, I love talking with nurses about their innovative ideas and I’d be more than happy to talk with you as well!

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

The views and opinions expressed by My Nurse Influencer contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the American Nurses Association, the Editorial Advisory Board members, or the Publisher, Editors and staff of American Nurse Journal. These are opinion pieces and are not peer reviewed.

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