Empowering Nurses as Leaders and Innovators

Two NursePitch™ winners share how they are working to increase the voice, opportunity and visibility of nurse-led innovations.

Shining a Light on Nurse-Led Innovation

Sangeeta Agarawal, RN, MS

By Sangeeta Agarawal, RN, MS, CEO and Founder, Helpsy Health; a HIMSS Nursing Informatics Community Member and NursePitch Winner

"You don’t want to be messing around in healthcare on your own, it’s a doctor’s job. If you want to be taken seriously, have an MD lead the company."

Every day, nurses strive to serve patients. Unfortunately, sometimes the larger community dismisses the value of nurses.

As I was building my company, Helpsy Health, I received many disheartening responses that compared my credentials as a registered nurse to those of doctors’ who are perceived as more capable to lead.

This mindset holds our healthcare industry back. Nurses are on the front line of care, always at the beside of the patients. Nurses are too often underrepresented or our opinions are undervalued. So, the problems we can help solve in healthcare continue to remain unaddressed.

A Critical Need for Nursing Practice

Our HIMSS20 NursePitch collaborator, Kelly Larrabee Robke, RN, MBA, MS, shares insights into care delivery challenges in her blog post, A Critical Need for Nursing Practice: Optimized Workflows and Value-Added Care Activity.

Read It Now

Nurses are innovators by nature. We saw Florence Nightingale, pioneer of modern nursing, and her bold efforts in improving healthcare in the 20th century. That spirit continues to be reflected today by the many role models in nursing, including my own: Cynthia Cantril, RN, OCN, CBCN, MPH, oncology nurse and Biden Cancer Initiative’s FIERCE Award recipient; Liane Parker who built a comprehensive program for cardio and cancer care management; and Sue Schneider, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN, past Oncology Nursing Society president who is supportive towards my growth.

Nurses bring nurse innovation to light in their efforts to advocate for patients’ needs. Yet, oftentimes we do not consider ourselves as innovators or leaders as we are used to seeing ourselves as mere extensions of doctors’ care.

This highlights the importance of nursing organizations, such as HIMSS and the American Nurses Association, to educate and champion nurses as innovators.

For the first time at HIMSS Global Health Conference, we had an opportunity to take center stage as an innovator in healthcare space through NursePitchTM, which provided the opportunity for nurses to pitch their innovations. When we won, it felt like the entire nursing community rejoiced with us because we all knew that it was a significant milestone for our profession.

All this is possible because fellow nurse leaders and healthcare professionals worked hard to create this program. That’s the power of having nurses coming together as innovators and leaders.

If we are serious about improving care continuity while reducing cost of care, we need to empower nurses to take up space as leaders in the field. Nurses have always been and will always be innovators. As nurse innovators, we should focus on lifting each other’s work.

It’s time to normalize nurse leaders and listen up to the wave of innovation that nurses are bringing into healthcare.

Blazing New Trails for Nurse-Led Innovation

Ramona Ramadas, BSN, RN

By Ramona Ramadas, BSN, RN, Founder, New Trails Navigators; NursePitch Winner

It was late afternoon on New Year’s Eve in New York City. One of the busiest days of the year, for everyone from partygoers to first responders.

I was on my last home care visit of the day. I knew the patient; we’d been doing wound care visits for a while – and were close to complete healing. Care in the community is never predictable, but I was in a good groove with this patient and suspected our visit would be brief, and I would be on the subway home and away from the inevitable crowds soon.

I walked into the patient’s apartment and the bathroom sink was on the floor. There was a hole in the wall of the bathroom where the sink was once attached.

Turns out, the patient had fallen a couple days before and pulled the sink out trying to stabilize.

The patient was okay and had known to see primary care after the fall, but the home care team, the patient’s eyes and ears in the community, was out of the loop. That may not have been so bad, except the patient I was looking at shouldn’t have been at home, alone, still unsteady and unsure, with no daily support.

I needed to get a better plan together quickly. Wait, did I mention it was New Year’s Eve? This wasn’t going to be easy …

I have a lot of stories like this from the community and there were two common threads: a need for stronger, community-based support for complex, vulnerable individuals, and a solution for the lack of workers to lead these efforts. This was the inspiration for my organization. We pair a vulnerable patient with a peer that has relatable experience facing and overcoming the same physical, behavioral, and social challenges as the patient.

New Trails Navigators was founded in 2018 and has matured through a lot of elbow grease and a few pitch awards. My team and I were thrilled to learn about the new HIMSS and the American Nurses Association nurse innovator focus through NursePitch™. There are so many talented nurses in the HIMSS community, we were honored for inclusion in the program.

I’ve never felt so supported in a pitch. The audience’s smiling faces and thumbs ups as I pitched my heart out on behalf of my patients were just what I needed – not only to get through the pitch but to keep going in this tough work.

Thank you, HIMSS for giving nurse innovators a microphone and megaphone to share our work. I can’t wait to see you next year to celebrate our victories and welcome the next cohort!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.


Calling All Changemakers

No matter where you are in the world, you can be part of what’s next for health. View digital resources, a content showcase and social media highlights on the HIMSS Global Health Conference Digital Experience page.

Be Part of the Change

Originally published May 8, 2019