Nurse-Led Innovation Gets a Jump Start Building a Culture of Innovation at the American Nurses Association

It’s not always easy for a long-established organization to break new ground. But the 125-year-old American Nurses Association (ANA) is leading the way in a strategic movement to include nurses in the world of healthcare innovation.

ANA is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation’s 4 million registered nurses. In 2017, the organization created a new executive role of Vice President of Innovation – and selected Dr. Bonnie Clipper, DNP, RN, MA, MBA, CENP, FACHE, to lead the charge.

Dr. Clipper brings more than 30 years of experience as a nurse, including 20 years as a Chief Nursing Office. She’s also been a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow and an ASU/AONE Executive Fellow in Innovative Health Leadership. These roles provided her with an opportunity to deeply study innovation in nursing – and shift her career path to an area she felt would make the greatest impact on the nursing profession.


Inspiring Nurses to See Themselves as Innovators


Even though nurses represent the largest group of healthcare professionals in the U.S., Clipper observes that nurses are usually not provided the forums or opportunities to share their ideas.  “Nurses tend to be an underrepresented group in the innovation world, so we developed a way to help nurses bring their products and ideas to light,” says Clipper. “We’re creating an environment to educate and coach nurses, but also to advance nursing innovation.”

With a boots-on-the-ground perspective, nurses spend more time with the patient than any other discipline. That’s why ANA saw a need to get nurses involved in the healthcare innovation world. Dr. Clipper’s mission at ANA is to build a culture of innovation in nursing with a three-point strategy:


  • Ignite nurse-led innovation through events like innovation labs where they can “get their hands dirty” and create prototypes for their ideas
  • Celebrate nursing innovation with the ANA Innovation Awards to recognize nurse-led ideas with cash awards
  • Cultivate and inspire future nurse innovators through education, presentations, and media


Crafting a New Vision for Nurses


Dr. Clipper believes in respecting history and tradition at the ANA -- while at the same time, crafting a vision to move forward in a progressive way.  “In healthcare, we sometimes don’t understand what that means and how to balance both. ANA is doing some new and different things – like our recent collaborative partnership with HIMSS. This is a progressive way to bring our worlds together so we can leverage the expertise of all our combined members to transform healthcare.”

Many nurses have expressed excitement about the new ANA relationship with HIMSS – and are overwhelmingly positive about ANA’s overall vision to support nurse-led innovation. “Nurses want to be part of the conversation at a national level. Nurses early in their careers are especially excited to have a framework to advance their ideas, and more tenured nurses want to harness evidence and literature. We want to bridge all their ideas and approaches to help nurses figure out ways to transform care,” says Clipper.

Nurses often don’t consider themselves innovators. But Clipper points out that even though nurses may be reluctant to innovate, they continually improve the delivery of quality patient care on a daily basis.

“When I ask nurses, ‘Who here is an innovator?’, no one raises their hand. But if I ask, ‘Have you ever practiced or developed a work-around?’ They raise hands. Then I ask, ‘Have you ever improvised or MacGuyvered something?’ More raise their hands. I tell them, ‘That’s innovation!’ and they say ‘Oh, I guess I am an innovator!’”


NursePitch™: “Shark Tank” for Nurses


With a new collaborative relationship between ANA and HIMSS announced in late November, Clipper sees a “blue sky opportunity” to further expand ANA’s work to advance the nursing profession. One example is the inaugural nurse-focused competition co-branded as NursePitch™. It will be held on February 13, 2019 during the HIMSS19 Global Conference in Orlando, Florida.

With NursePitch™ and other programs, ANA and HIMSS are joining forces to support and encourage nurse-led innovations by providing monetary prizes, mentorship, recognition and membership awards. “HIMSS has a long history of supporting nurses as innovators,” says Christel Anderson, MA, Senior Director Interoperability Initiatives, HIMSS. “Through our collaboration with ANA we will be able to increase the voice, opportunity and visibility of the nursing audience in the digital health ecosystem by holding ‘nurse led’ & ‘nurse developed’ innovation.”

NursePitch™ applications have been submitted and finalists are being selected to present their concepts and products in front of a live audience at HIMSS19. Another NursePitchTM competition will be held at the 2019 ANA Quality Innovation Conference in April.

Attendees at the HIMSS19 Global Conference are welcome to be part of the NursePitch™ audience as nurses make their presentations. “We’re excited to see the ideas that make it to the finals for NursePitch™,” says Clipper. “Our vision is to transform healthcare through nurse-led innovation. That’s the end goal.”