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Rounds with Leadership: Incubating Innovation

Published September 29, 2021

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

September 29, 2021 - Incubating Leadership

AACN values innovation. When the association’s Board of Directors was tasked a few years back with distilling the organization’s four core values, Innovation was identified along with Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion, and Integrity. That same strategic planning session culminated with an updated mission statement, which calls for AACN to serve as a catalyst for excellence and innovation in nursing education, research, and practice.

The World Health Organization defines innovation as “a great idea to develop and deliver new or improved health policies, systems, products and technologies, and services and delivery methods that improve people’s health.” In academic nursing, the art and science of innovation extends to what we teach, how we engage students in didactic and clinical learning environments, what we research, and how we prepare future leaders to thrive in settings where we do not yet have all the answers on how to provide optimal health care to all.

The National Academy of Medicine’s Future of Nursing 2020-2030 report identifies innovation as an important competency for all nurses. The authors encourage nurse leaders to create environments that welcome innovation by challenging the status quo, breaking down barriers to change, teaching and encouraging team members to solve problems using design thinking, and facilitating the translation and adoption of new ideas (p. 286).  

Despite many challenges, academic settings often serve as incubators for innovation and new thinking. In a recent blog post for Inside Higher Ed (Driving Academic Innovation, August 17, 2021), Dr. Steven Mintz, Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, considers the “wicked problems” at play when universities seek transformative solutions to existing challenges. When faced with a “looming opportunity” for innovation, Dr. Mintz recognizes the importance of “committed faculty members or administrators who take it upon themselves to solve a problem, not because they expect recognition or a reward or the prospects of professional advancement, but out of a belief that change is necessary and desirable.”

Implementation of the new AACN Essentials will provide faculty with a prime opportunity to engage in innovation while also building this competency in future nurses. Embedded within these new standards are calls to prepare program graduates to address opportunities for innovation and changes in practice, optimize system effectiveness, look beyond traditional academic-practice partnerships, and deploy innovation when evidence is not available. The Essentials are explicit about the need for nurses to focus on innovation as a means to address some of the profession’s more pressing issues, including dismantling structural racism, eliminating systemic inequity, and addressing the social determinants of health.

AACN is committed to driving innovation in academic nursing and providing forums that celebrate creativity and showcase cutting-edge thought. We look forward to reuniting with our community of engaged leaders at the upcoming Academic Nursing Leadership Conference in October and at our newest conference event, Transform 2021, in December where the focus will be on The Future of Nursing Education: Innovation, Inclusion, and Influence.  Together we will exchange strategies, ideas, and solutions as we move to shape the future of nursing education.

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