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A few years ago, after 2 decades working as a nursing leader in multiple healthcare settings, I noticed something: I, and nearly every other leader I encountered, was frequently fatigued. This led me to hypothesize that nursing leadership roles and fatigue might be related. To test my hypothesis, I designed and developed a national survey about what I term Leadership Fatigue™. In the summer of 2013, I distributed this survey to nurse leaders, educators, and consultants across the U.S.

The response rate was overwhelming. I received 595 completed surveys (525 of which were used in my statistical analysis). The results from my study proved my hypothesis to be correct. People in nursing leadership roles were negatively affected by their work, experiencing stress leading to mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual sequelae.

These findings about fatigue among nursing leaders were so striking, I began to speak of them around the country. Not surprisingly, many audience members asked a similar question: “What do we do about this?” This led to yet another project: the publication in 2016 of Nurse Burnout: Overcoming Stress in Nursing with Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI). This book, written in a positive tone, focused on strategies to not just cope but to thrive in the chaos-filled work environments that characterize today’s healthcare industry.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

–Steve Jobs

What does this have to do with innovation? I tell this story to serve as an example of innovation. Merriam-Webster (n.d.) defines innovation as “the introduction of something new” or “a new idea, method, or device.” According to Ness (2015), it’s the engine of scientific progress. Innovation is fundamental to change and central to progress. Organizations need innovation to fuel new ideas for fresh products and services. It’s a popular topic—so popular, in fact, that a recent Google search yielded some 571 million hits.

Nurses, too, can and should innovate. Indeed, nursing innovation is sorely needed. For some time, members of the healthcare community—and of the public it serves—have widely agreed that transforming healthcare is a top priority in the U.S. (De Groot, 2009). It’s true that in many cases, what used to work in healthcare no longer applies. Thanks to their intimate knowledge of systems, patient care, and patient needs, nurses have a unique opportunity to drive healthcare change.

To learn more about innovation, visit This is the website for IDEO, an award-winning design and development consulting firm. IDEO is committed to solving many of the world’s most pressing problems, including those affecting healthcare.


Ness (2015) posits that our habitual ways of thinking are filtered through something linguists call frames. She describes a frame as a structure of expectations and assumptions used to interpret new information, which allow us to think and speak in ...

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