In April of 2019, I had the privilege of attending the ANA Quality and Innovation Conference where Inspiren, the healthcare technology company I co-founded with fellow nurse, Michael Wang, received the inaugural Innovation Award, powered by BD. Since that time, I have received messages from nurses around the country asking me why I felt the need to innovate on this large of a scale and if I had any advice for nurses wishing to innovate as well.
While we greatly appreciate your support, we want you to know that we did at Inspiren isn’t any different than what nurses do each day. Nurses are inherently innovators by our very nature. More importantly, we currently have a unique opportunity to highlight this aspect of our profession to improve our healthcare system at every level. However, in order to truly seize this opportunity, we must embrace fully that which defines our profession.
The most defining and memorable moments of my life were spent recovering from a stroke in a hospital bed with a nurse by my side. Based on that experience, I decided I wanted to be present to others and help them during their most defining and memorable moments. So, I became a nurse.
I then quickly realized, much to my disappointment, that much of our healthcare system does not have a primary focus on facilitating these remarkable moments. Since the implementation of the electronic health record (EHR), healthcare has become more and more about data collection, leaving the unquantifiable human connection to noble clinicians who work tirelessly to preserve it amidst the chaos. And we’re trying to do this while we’re being pulled away from the patient to the chart—performing manual audits to ensure adherence to protocols, submitting data to external agencies to fulfill government and insurance requirements, and ensuring the patient has recovered adequately enough to be “safe for discharge.” While this is necessary, patients and providers know very well that biological recovery and a complete EHR that fulfills requirements is simply not enough because a patient doesn’t seek only to be discharged, and a nurse doesn’t seek only to send them home. Both human beings seek to be fulfilled. It’s a privilege to be able to mutually achieve this goal of fulfillment in life’s most difficult moments. To help each other, patient and provider, not only to overcome the suffering present, but to see beyond it.
Nurses achieve this true goal of healthcare every day. Often, nurses have the unique opportunity to be alone with a patient in a hospital bed and have them seek nothing from us—except to be present in their time of need. Patients aren’t distracted by a computer, or a television, or a smartphone. They’re fulfilled solely by the presence of another human being caring for them. What a precious gift this is (when time allows for it to occur), not just for the patient, but for the nurse as well.
It’s been well studied and proven that more of these moments lead to less clinician burnout and more optimal patient outcomes. It’s so simple and yet, in a world where objective metrics reign supreme, these subjective aspects of the healing process don’t get the attention they deserve due to a technology gap that demands analytics, yet still requires clinicians to manually fuel the fire. As a result, nurses are doing our very best, despite multiple opposing forces, to keep the focus on the healing of the whole patient, both physical and emotional. But is becoming more and more difficult.
Yet, there is a world on the horizon where technology does not oppose, but aids us, in our efforts to achieve this goal. There is a future where the provider is not torn between charting and caring, and the patient is able to both recover while being simultaneously restored. However, if nurses want this optimal care environment, we must create it: There has been one profession, over the centuries, best equipped to advocate for the complete needs of a patient—the nurse. To ensure that the full breadth of patient needs are met in this new century of rapidly evolving technology, nurses must not only remain at the forefront of healthcare innovation, we must lead it.
Paul E. Coyne is president and co-founder of Inspiren (inspiren.com).