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Health System Leaders Value Nurse Innovation Skills, Just Not at the Leadership Level

By 2025, Top Industry Challenges are Likely to Force Change

Clinical and business leaders value the innovation and clinical acumen skills nurses bring to their organizations at most levels—just not at the leadership level.

Both clinical and business leaders rank skills like the interface of clinical innovation and technology and design-thinking for process change, as well as excellent clinical acumen, in the top four most valuable for nurse innovators in their organizations by 2025, according to Unleashing Nurse-Led Innovation, a study released today by The BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

But most have not elevated nurses to the leadership levels needed to fully transform care. Just 31 percent of clinical leaders today have a designated nursing leader whose primary responsibility is innovation, and less than half (46 percent) of business leaders say their C-suite includes someone with a nursing background.

By 2025, though, both sides of the industry signal that they’re taking steps to fully unleash nurse innovators at the leadership level. More than three-fourths (81 percent) of clinical leaders say investing in placing nurses as decisionmakers on all strategic planning teams will be very important for health organizations. More than half (57 percent) of business leaders, meanwhile, say advanced leadership is a skill they’ll view as very important to nurse innovators within their organization.

“Health stakeholders’ ability to thrive amid the new consumer-driven health system depends on nurses claiming a seat at the table at the leadership level,” said Antonia M. Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. “If true care transformation is to take shape to improve patient outcomes at lower costs, health systems and businesses must recognize that nursing can and must extend well beyond the bedside and community—and into the boardroom.”

Today’s most perplexing health issues—caring for a growing aging population, chronic care management and addressing mental health issues like addiction—necessitate that shift. In fact, these critical areas are where clinical and business leaders agree that nurses have the most opportunity to transform and improve care by 2025, the study revealed.

“Nurses are already leading sweeping, research-driven innovations at larger, systemic levels within clinical and business organizations. They’re just having to navigate around certain roadblocks to do it,” said Karen Meador, MD, MBA, Managing Director and Senior Physician Executive in The BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation. “Roadblocks need to be removed, and systems must embrace nurses as leaders in innovation. Unleashing nurse innovators is a care imperative and a business imperative.”

Read the full study and tune into BDO’s Health & Life Sciences Rx Podcast to hear how leaders from Penn Nursing, Becton Dickinson and the American Nurses Association think nurse-led innovation can be fully unleashed.

About Unleashing Nurse-Led Innovation

Unleashing Nurse-Led Innovation surveyed two distinct groups—104 clinical leaders and 172 business leaders—about the future of nursing innovation and its role in their organizations. The survey of clinical leaders was conducted by HealthLeaders Media and included executives at hospitals and health systems, home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities, physician organizations and hospice providers. The survey of business leaders was conducted by FierceMarkets and included executives at payers, pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies.  

For more information about The BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation, visit the BDO Health & Life Sciences Rx blog.