The importance of innovation in healthcare

How can we equip nursing students with the right tools to engage with innovation in healthcare? Engage recently hosted a seminar with this specific aim.

By Marcus Stensland and Karoline Lund Johansen

Nurses have helped people get well since the mid-19th century. Yet, the old profession is one of the most essential components in today’s society. Throughout the years’ of medical advances, nursing has changed and adapted through time. We find ourselves wondering how innovation can push development further into the future? On January 21st, Engage hosted the seminar “Change agents in healthcare” (Endringsagenter i helsesektoren), which aims to better equip nursing students with the right tools to engage in innovation.

Innovation in the health sector can be everything from improving systems used for nurses and doctors, new services for patients, as well as new products to support or make the job easier. Benedikte Dyrhaug Stoknes gives us an insight into how they work with this topic at the Surgical clinic Division at Nordland Hospital Trust, where she works with quality and patient safety.

“I have a strong passion for quality improvement. The small thing in everyday life that in a way helps make things a little better.”

Benedikte Dyrhaug Stoknes

She explains how she got to be a part of changing the system for how to register and respond to changes in a patient’s symptoms. This improvement helped nurses get an objective understanding of deteriorating patients and when doctors needed to be paged.

Innovation in the health sector always has the end goal to improve people’s lives and health. However, Stoknes admits innovation is not often associated with her field of work.

Nurse and Phd student, Gunn-Berit Neergård, talks about the importance of innovation in the health sector

The challenges of innovation

Cecilie Haukland, a former nurse and economist, is under the impression that innovation needs more attention in the health sector, and especially among nurses. She says that a lot of people, including nurses, are not even aware of the opportunity to do innovation at their workplace.

Haukland herself has experienced the difficulties of doing innovation as a nurse. When starting her nursing job as a freshly graduated 21-year old, she found it difficult to propose new ideas and tell more experienced staff that she had ideas or suggestions for new ways to do the job.

“The problem with nursing, and the health sector in general, is that a lot of people will experience resistance upon proposing changes to problem-solving and new ideas. This is mainly caused by very confusing and difficult processes needed to innovate in the sector. These processes need to be simplified to include more bright minds.”

Cecilie Haukland

Haukland is not alone in believing this is a problem. Stoknes also points to the environment and culture as the main bottleneck for innovation. She explains that this is not a problem everyone in the health sector faces, but this is a problem with varying impact in the different departments. In some places there is no doubt that one experiences a different atmosphere than others. With that said she also points out that over the years they have become more aware of the connection between workplace environment and patient safety.

Stoknes believes that to create a good culture where ideas will have the opportunity to grow, they need good leaders that can create an environment where curiosity is valued, and who can see the potential in ideas that are suggested, and help guide them through the process of making them a reality.

“One person alone can not change the world”.

Benedikte Dyrhaug Stoknes

Bringing innovation into nurses’ education

In 2020 the health sector’s ability to change and innovate has been put to a test, as covid-19 spreads through the world population. With this reality as a backdrop, third-year students at Nord University’s nursing school were involved in the annual innovation seminar. The event addresses what it is to be a change agent, and gives the students the tools they need to work with innovation. They are encouraged to build on their own experience and problem-solve through the design thinking methodology.

Both Haukland and Stoknes participated as facilitators at the event that aims to better equip nursing students with the right tools to engage in innovation. The seminar mainly revolved around spreading awareness regarding the issues of innovation within the health sector, and group sessions focused on practical problem-solving. Student Wiona Adelin Rostad attended the seminar and found the process of innovation exciting.

“Working in groups with complex problem solving, was something I’ve never experienced before. Finding a solution that’s not written down in a textbook or an article made us think outside the box. The seminar was interesting and very motivating. I believe that it will help nursing students with finding innovative solutions to problems when they enter the real world of nursing”.

Wiona Adelin Rostad

Rostad was one of over 60 students who attended the seminar, and she believes the initiative is important to fuel the innovation fire that lies within newly graduated students.

Event breakdown

  • An introduction to innovation and entrepreneurship in practice by Jeanett Grønnslett (Anue), Benedikte Dyrhaug Stoknes (Nordlandssykehuset) and Gunn-Berit Neergård from NTNU
  • Crash course in Design Thinking by Sølvi Solvoll (Associate Professor, Nord University)
  • Group Work with focus on problem awareness and solving
  • Groups pitch solution/idea in front of an expert panel
  • Expert panel evaluates ideas and awards prize to winner team