Nurses: You are Intrepid Pioneers

The knowledge and skills of nursing are portable and reflect versatility. Nurses are scientific critical thinkers who see their vocation as a calling to improve the health care of citizens through compassionate healing. Nurses’ ability to evaluate and think on their feet in a variety of situations is found in all locations of health care from the operating room to patient homes.

The history of nursing reflects innovation. Since May is the month we find nursing week this article will take a look at one aspect of the future of nursing. Nursing’s bird’s eye view of health care gives nurses opportunity to see how health care delivery can be improved through new inventions of equipment and services. There are many examples in the past of nurses who have filled voids in the health care system by pioneering health care innovation. They have been mentioned in this space already, such as Frontier Nurse Services or the Visiting Nurse Services of New York and the Henry Street Settlement.

Some nurses have extended the entrepreneurial spirit to create businesses of their own. This article will give several examples of present nursing businesses and possibilities in the future.

Fran Lessans began her career as an RN then as an educator at the University of Baltimore. She observed that her students were traveling more frequently to destinations in the third world that required immunizations. Although local hospitals did immunize the students they did not give medical advice and the students still had questions that they needed answered. She started offering education on staying healthy while overseas. Soon the demand for her services increased markedly as there was no location in the health care system that offered medical services potential travelers needed. Thus her idea pioneered the beginning of travel clinics in the US. Passport Health has expanded from its first office in 1994 to offering other health services for the US government. For example, they have created plans to counter bioterrorism and were involved in assisting during the anthrax attacks in 2001. She was in the right place at the right time but it was her observation skills and implementation of student feedback that allowed her business to grow to the point where it is now a franchise opportunity for other interested nurses.

Legal nurse consultants are specialist nurses as defined by the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. Legal nurse consultants use their experience and expertise in health care and it’s delivery to assist lawyers in many ways. They can evaluate, analyze and compose informed opinions on the outcomes of health care delivery. They provide effective communication between parties for satisfactory resolution of health care litigation. They also inform lawyers of health care facts and processes. Legal nurse consultants research health care guidelines, standards, and regulations as necessary for individual cases. They can also review and summarize and analyze medical records and legal documents as related to allegations. They also support and testify during discovery, depositions, hearings, and trials as expert witnesses.

Legal nurse consultants can be self employed as contractors or work for a law firm or insurance company.

Nurses can also design equipment that helps give patients the best opportunity for recovery and at the same time facilitate nursing work.

With decades of nursing experience, Sharon Zelinko turned frustration into an improved pair of medical scissors. Rather than waiting for someone else to invent what she needed she took the initiative herself. Her innovation has grooves on the shaft of the scissors. This allows the bandage scissors to be multifunctional to assist nurses in managing other medical equipment. The grooves allow nurses to effectively manipulate IV tubing and to open vials without damaging their contents. She has a patent pending on her device which many nurses use in different medical settings. Operating room nurse input has led to another addition to the design of the gripping scissors, a hook which can be used for an oxygen key, for example.

Nurses’ innovation and entrepreneurship also increases access to health care for those citizens that can’t afford medical attention. The examples of Nurse Family Partnership, nurse managed health clinics, and workplace wellness initiatives all started with a  determined innovative nurse and an idea.

There is a trend starting where nurses will be case managers for families with chronically ill patients or creating agencies of case managers. With their knowledge and experience case or care managers help families navigate the health care system to access the specific services their family member needs. Case managers can advocate for the family with other medical professionals. They can also coordinate a team of medical personnel. Nurses may become leaders of accountable care organizations in the future. This accountable care organization leader position will depend on government and insurance companies acknowledgement of nurses’ vital role in the expansion of the health care system.

Nurses communication skills, perseverance, and position as trusted professionals in the public’s eyes can only increase their opportunities of success in becoming business owners in the years to come.

Passages in Caregiving G. Sheehy William Morrow 2010

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