Thursday, July 28, 2005

You might be amazed at the outcome.

I find that one of the most refreshing qualities about working with nursing students or new graduates is their ability to bring a new perspective to age-old processes. New students or graduate nurses challenge the "why" when rules just don't make sense by coming up with alternative ways to handle various situations. Although not all their solutions are practical, nonetheless all are most interesting to hear.

What resonates most for me, when I am surrounded by inquisitive students who see possibility in almost everything around their professional environment is asking myself the question, "When do some of our experienced nurses choose to let go of this same trait of curiosity and replace it with a callused attitude?" Is it the bureaucracy of the organizations that affects us all over time, is it fear of failure and making a mistake, or is it just the need to do the "perfect" job? Regardless, all these reasons cramp our ability to be innovative in finding the much needed solutions to the issues facing the profession. Complacency is the enemy of innovation. Innovation requires throwing out the rule book and a taking a fresh approach at how things are done.

Let me share a personal example of what I mean by using a fresh approach to address old issues. In a recent graduate class on leadership and innovation, I provided four different redesign assignments to four groups of students. One group of non-nursing students was assigned to "reconstruct the IV pole." There were nurses in the class, but I purposely did not put them in this group, just to see the outcome.
Each group of students was given $100 to build a prototype and had 3 weeks to finish the research and design, and report back to the class for "show and tell." The nonnursing group interviewed the staff nurses on several units of a hospital to learn the intricacies of using an IV pole and the issues surrounding patient safety.

Three weeks later a new and improved IV pole was designed to the delight of the nursing staff! The new pole had all the features to accommodate the numerous safety issues described by the nurses in using the original IV pole. The new design had both larger and fatter wheels to provide better stability in holding the weight of a leaning ill patient as they walked down the hallway. The students had included hooks to accommodate catheter bags, and numerous other features. The IV pole was no longer top heavy. I cannot do the invention justice in my description other than to say the nurses who saw the final product insisted the group get a patent, so they could put it to use immediately.

This is just one example of "throwing out the rule book" and coming up with fresh approaches to handling everyday workplace issues. I challenge all of you to try and rethink the way things have always been done and take a different approach.

You might be amazed at the outcome.


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