nursing schoolAs the largest component of the health care workforce, nurses are increasingly called upon to coordinate and fill gaps in the care of patients while playing a crucial leadership role in how that care is administered.

And as their role expands, today’s nurses must graduate with not only the skills demanded by current technology but also the capacity for life-long learning, the ability to adapt and implement innovations yet to come.

This challenge was the focus of a series of meetings titled “Leading Innovation in Healthcare and Nursing Education” held by the deans, key alumni, and current students of three of the nation’s leading academic nursing research universities—Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON), Duke University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The meetings, held January 15-17 in Jacksonville, Tampa, and Naples, were forums to explore advances in nursing education, research, and practice in a post-reform health care era. For the past three years, the schools have partnered to provide an opportunity for sharing the best practices being developed by each nursing program.

“Innovation is no longer just a grand idea. For nurses, it is survival,” said Martha N. Hill, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the JHUSON. “Working together, our alumni can be the eyes of experience in the field, and our students can provide a glimpse at the future. What we must do as educators is listen and learn as well as teach, to use that combination of wisdom and youthful energy to build a collective vision that looks always for what’s best, and what’s next.”

“We must drive improvement through innovation,” said Catherine L. Gilliss, PhD, RN, FAAN, school of nursing dean, Helene Fuld Health Trust Professor of Nursing, and vice chancellor for nursing affairs at Duke University. “Our leadership work includes the education of future nurse leaders, at all levels, who are prepared to see opportunities for health care improvements, to pace changes appropriately, and work through the conflicts that are inherent in change. Nursing must be a reform-minded community.”

“Collaboration is essential to innovation,” said Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the UAB School of Nursing and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing. “The significant rate of chronic conditions and disease require nurses, physicians, pharmacists—skilled practitioners from every corner of the healthcare community—to work, learn, and research together. As a team, our disciplines, science, educational programs, and practice will translate better outcomes and health solutions to patients, communities, and families. Nurses are the linchpin of the care team increasingly being called on to lead, coordinate, and fill gaps in our healthcare system.”

Innovation often emerges at critical junctures where today meets tomorrow. These junctures bring together innumerable forces, technology, practices, and professions to solve complex problems. Central to nursing’s response has been the intersection of innovative educational programs, collaborative and translational science, and new health care delivery models. Three top nursing schools continue to meet today to prepare tomorrow’s nurse scientists, executives, and leaders.