If It’s Not Broken, Why Innovate?

Jessica Guzzetti, MBA, BSN, RN, CCHP-RN | Updated/Verified: Sep 11, 2023

You’ve heard the saying, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?”. Instead, we should say, “It may not be broken, but can it be improved? Innovation is what stands between meeting the standard and optimizing performance. Innovation is what stands between "getting it done" and consistent efficiency. Innovation is what stands between "making it work" and reliable outcomes. Innovation is the key to remaining competitive and relevant. If you think this doesn't apply to nursing, think again!

All Nurses Are Innovators

Florence Nightingale was the nurse OG of innovation! In her book Notes on Nursing: What is it, and What it is Not, Florence wrote, “I use the word nursing for want of a better. It has been limited to signify little more than the administration of medicines and the application of poultices”. She knew nurses are capable of so much more and that Nursing was destined for more. Innovation can be proactive but is often reactive – conscious creation is triggered when something “breaks.” Nurses are the subconscious innovators of the world, constantly innovating without even realizing it.

Improvisation Is Synonymous With Innovation

We have all had to improvise in our daily work as nurses. An EKG machine lead clip breaks while assessing a patient with chest pain; now what? I found myself in this position once. Rather than waste precious minutes locating another EKG machine or parts, you "macgyver" the lead clip with something you saw at the workstation and keep the lead attached long enough to obtain a good EKG. This incident triggers innovation. Every EKG machine is paired with a basket containing extra supplies and equipment (such as lead clips).

Innovation Is the Practice of Analyzing to Optimize

Never wait until something breaks to innovate. Innovators ask, “How can it be optimized?” even if it is “not broken,” “good enough,” and “it works.” As nurses, we may use different words, such as “assess,” but it is the same. First, we assess to determine function and disposition. Then, we provide treatment with the intent of optimizing the outcome. We learn some of our skills while others are innate. The ability to innovate is one natural skill that sets successful nurses apart.

Every Patient Is a Story of Innovation

In nursing leadership, innovation is crucial to high-quality patient care and positive outcomes. Innovative leadership will build a high-functioning and diverse team, prepared with the tools, knowledge, and training to be healthy and serve their patients, one another, and the organization. It will allow them to learn, grow, and remain current in their practice. Nurses thrive when challenged. We are life-long learners in our careers as well as in life. Innovation is vital to avoiding stagnation.

Innovative leadership trickles down, creating a culture of “Are we doing it well enough, or can we do it better?” Innovative leadership encourages reporting errors, observations, and concerns in the daily workflows. It’s how we find solutions and improvements to prevent recurrence. Finally, innovative leadership empowers teams with competence, autonomy, and ownership. As a leader, some of the best innovations I’ve put into practice were conceived by ideas and experiences shared by my staff nurses.

Empower your teams to innovate – they see, hear, and know things you don’t. They are the true visionaries.


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