Nursing Education

Dr. Tiffany Kelley Answers Your Questions about Innovation in Nursing

Dr. Tiffany Kelley Answers Your Questions about Innovation in Nursing

What questions do you have about the role of innovation in nursing? 

Well, we might have some answers for you. 

During our workshop with Dr. Tiffany Kelley, a leader in nursing innovation, we found out what was on the minds of hundreds of nursing educators during a live Q&A.

And Dr. Kelley knows a few things about innovation in healthcare. She wrote a book about EHR, is the CEO of Nightingale Apps and iCare Nursing Solutions, and currently serves as the DeLuca Visiting Professor of Innovation and New Knowledge at the University of Connecticut.

While I’d recommend watching the entire free workshop, here are the highlights of the live Q&A.

Question: Can you give some examples of innovation strategies you’ve integrated into core nursing courses?


I’ll start with our first-semester freshmen students. They take a Healthcare Delivery Systems course, and in working with one of the faculty who has been teaching that course, we came up with a plan for how to work with the students to talk about innovation in nursing. Not just standing in front of the room, or, in this case, virtually, for an hour and defining terms, but we work with the National Patient Safety Goals.

So, each year, we pull the list of the National Patient Safety Goals, and these are first-year students, and the students are given time to work in small groups. They are asked—after about 20 minutes of me defining innovation and what it is and why it’s important for healthcare—to look at that Patient Safety Goal list and identify a problem that they want to try to solve. In their groups, they propose a solution to that problem and then present it back to the group. 

I did this in the fall, and, oh my goodness, the ideas! One of the Patient Safety Goals is about identifying patients, and so some of the students, I’m sure, were thinking, “How have we not figured this out yet?” 

"One student group had thought about providing patients with a temporary tattoo so that there wouldn't be any way not to identify the patient, and I thought 'How clever is that?'" —Dr. Tiffany Kelley Share on X

But one student group had thought about a temporary tattoo, providing patients with a temporary tattoo so that there wouldn’t be any way to not identify the patient, and I just thought, “How clever is that?” Whether or not that goes to scale and implementation, that wasn’t the purpose of the exercise, but it was just to get them to think of different ideas. And there were many others, but they were only given 15 minutes to do this exercise, so you don’t need a lot of time to get people to start thinking creatively. 

Graduate Students

With some of our graduating master’s students, I’ve spent time with them at the end of their academic program, I’ve been invited, the last two years, to talk to them about innovation in nursing and the opportunity for potential entrepreneurship in developing their practices, or thinking about how nurse practitioners themselves are an innovation throughout nursing history and presenting that history of how nurse practitioners emerged. So, that’s strategically done at the end of their program, as they’re about to embark on their next journey.

Certificate Students

With our Healthcare Innovation certificate students, I’ve felt it’s important to bring in different speakers but with interviews. So, instead of having a speaker provide a guest lecture on their background or their innovation or their company, we do video interviews, and the interviewee is given questions ahead of time of what I will ask, and then we sit for about an hour and do a Q&A. 

I think that’s important for the students to see different people in different roles across healthcare innovation. Many of them are from UConn, many of them are not from UConn. And I think that’s important for role modeling, as well as getting different insights from people that maybe they will meet, but maybe listening in a different way sparks something that maybe I can’t convey in that language. So, those are a few strategies that I’ve used, and, again, it depends on the program, it depends on the depth, and it depends on where the students are.

Question: How can AI (artificial intelligence) be used for nursing education innovation?

Well, there are two ways to think about that.

  1. There are artificial intelligence tools and using them in the educational classroom.
  2. There’s the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare. 

The second may not be the most popular, but I think we still need to have a fundamental understanding of informatics at its core across the profession. Not just as an informatics nurse, but everyone needs to really understand that these systems are based on data and information. They need to understand how the data is put together, how it’s organized, where the data is coming from, data integrity, and those core concepts. 

"For nursing to truly understand the value of AI, we need to invest more time and attention to really looking at informatics as data information knowledge and wisdom." —Dr. Tiffany Kelley, CEO Nightingale Apps & iCare Nursing Solutions Share on X

I know that there are parts of that in the essentials, but I think it could be done deeper. Because the further we get away from looking into these complicated tools, the less we understand how these systems are constructed. Something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, I use that when I teach informatics, like, “Let’s look at how this is put together, and then we can start to build on top of that.”

So, artificial intelligence, I think it’s not going to not appear; I think for us to truly understand its value, we need to invest more time and attention to really looking at informatics as data information knowledge and wisdom.

I’ve heard some say, “Informatics is about the computer.” And it’s not not about the computer, but it’s a lot more than the computer. So, I think there are opportunities, for sure, but I think, again, we need to recognize where that added value is, and not just take it for what might be an emerging trend. 

Question: What tools or steps do you take to engage leaders who do not embrace change and innovation in nursing?

I remember, when I was designing the electronic health record years ago, I was the woman who came and was going to help them reinvent how they were going to use charting. And not everyone was excited about that. Not everyone wanted to see me coming. 

So, some of the things that I learned in that process, I still apply today, in the sense that I know not everyone’s going to be on board. 

And it would be awkward if I tried to pretend that everybody was on the same page at all times. 

I think there’s something that you learn from those that aren’t quite on board yet. So, let’s call that the late majority or the laggards. So they’re not quite past that 50% threshold. They’ve got questions, and they’re not sure how things fit into the equation. Maybe it’s a little intimidating. Maybe they don’t know how it’s going to fit into their courses. I’m sure there are so many other reasons that I didn’t just mention. 

"I know not everyone's going to be on board with innovation in nursing…I think there's something you can learn from those that aren't quite on board yet." —Dr. Tiffany Kelley, DeLuca Foundation Visiting Associate Professor Share on X

I let people share their opinions, and I let people share their thoughts because I think there’s something you can learn from their point of view when they’re not embracing your proposed change. 

And so let someone have their moment to tell you what they think. There might be questions that maybe you haven’t answered thoroughly yet that you need to go back and answer. So, I take it as knowing that there’s going to be areas where it’s going to be a little bit more challenging to move an idea forward, but then you break that down and say, “Okay, well, what do I need to do to help reach this point where you’re feeling comfortable or you’re willing to get on board? What would that balance be?” 

So, I think it’s about, again, relationship-building, listening to people, hearing what they’re saying, answering their questions that they have, getting more information, maybe even reframing your proposal a bit to address those concerns, all of these things happen. I think those are some of the things you can do and just know—with time—that someone will likely come around. Maybe not completely, but at least you can have mutual respect for the fact that you don’t share the same opinion. And that’s okay.

Question: How do you get individuals to become key stakeholders in creating a positive culture of innovation?

It’s very helpful if leadership is already interested in making this change. So, in the case of the role that I walked into, that was my situation, in the sense that I had support from my dean, associate deans, our faculty, I was there to help move this needle forward. I still am there. I’m there to move this needle forward.

And then, from there, I think it just naturally occurs. There’s going to be people that are going to gravitate toward this topic area sooner, rather than others, and so when those individuals start to appear and they want to help or they want to participate, making an effort to find a way where that can happen, or making an active effort to include or talk about different opportunities that are there. Relationship-building. 

You could assign people, I suppose that’s a strategy, assigning people to a committee. I didn’t do that. I have worked to build relationships across different degree programs, courses, areas, asking for feedback after I give lectures, what worked, what didn’t work, what do you want me to do differently, what do you think will work? That’s been my approach. And I learn something each time.

So, the stakeholders, I see far more people on board than I do not. There’s not someone that I could think of that is not on board at this moment in time. There may be folks that are not—I think it’s about relationship-building and just continuing to reinforce the ideas of what it is and why this needs to be done.

Register for free to watch a recording of this workshop with Dr. Kelley.