New Light on Innovative Nursing
He stood before an attentive audience with his hands high, as if holding a newborn. Using a high-pitched voice (“Look here, little Joey. Can you see me?”), he enticed the “baby” to look at him and follow his moving face.
Jan Tedder, BSN, FNP, IBCLC
Founder & President, HUG Your Baby
2020 ANA Innovation Individual Nurse Award
Find your star . . . and shed some light.
He stood before an attentive audience with his hands high, as if holding a newborn. Using a high-pitched voice (“Look here, little Joey. Can you see me?”), he enticed the “baby” to look at him and follow his moving face. In that moment, Harvard’s renowned pediatrician, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, became my guiding star. His parent stories, research and training would guide and inspire my career. I discovered over time that the first step to innovation is to respond to what stirs your heart, causes you to breathe fast, and keeps you up at night. I created HUG Your Baby to help parents, and the professionals who serve them, understand newborn behavior in order to prevent and solve problems around a baby’s eating, sleeping, crying and attachment. Once Dr. Brazelton told me, “You did what I always wanted to do–make a baby accessible to her parents.” His words encouraged me, and my experience encourages other nurses, to let our light shine.
Create your recipe . . . and bake a cake.
An innovator must “taste the recipes” of those before and around her. I gathered my cooking ingredients from Dr. Brazelton, Dr. Barbara Howard, Dr. M. Papousek, Dr. M. & P. Klaus, and Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. At the top of my recipe card was a question: How can I help a parent understand and delight in her baby? Translating complicated child development theory into family-friendly language became my way of combining ingredients to bake my cake. HUG Your Baby teaches parents to notice a baby’s Resting, Ready and Rebooting Zones (instead of six newborn “States”) and to see and respond to a baby who “sends out an ‘SOS’ – Sign of Over-Stimulation” (instead of “Stress Responses”). A father might notice an impending Rebooting Zone and successfully intervene to comfort his baby. Responding to a subtle SOS, a mother might put her baby skin-to-skin, and thereby enhance her breastfeeding success.
Hold your nose . . . and jump right in.
Innovators are invigorated when their expertise moves their vision forward. However, since most of us cannot afford to hire all the help required to develop a good idea, an innovator must also assume the role of novice and take on tasks that are not as rewarding, more frustrating, and often tedious. I initially avoided complicated Internet programs, struggled with writing assignments, and was bored by data collection. However, I made friends with all these initially challenging tasks when I learned to navigate platforms that helped me create and translate online courses (now accessed by 5,000 professionals around the world); and when I collaborated with nursing schools to evaluate and publish HUG Your Baby research and resources (now shared in 46 countries and tribal nations).
Turn on a dime . . . and shine your light.
Times change, but an innovator does not have time to mourn what could have been. Instead, she must confront what is—and say, “Yes, I can” not “No, I can’t.” Creeping outside one’s comfort zone and taking the risk of making a mistake are actions that can open new doors to innovation. COVID-19 hit HUG Your Baby hard. National conferences and international trainings were cancelled. Promising new initiatives were shut down. Some days were stressfully busy; others were disturbingly quiet. Facing the unexpected, I chose to pivot. I expanded my outreach from professionals directly to parents (by providing a free virtual breastfeeding class to expectant parents near and far), reconnected to past HUG Your Baby enthusiasts (by hosting the first international HUG Your Baby Zoom meeting), and collaborated with prominent nursing schools (by uploading HUG courses to their curriculum).
Shining new light on what first brought me to this work enabled me to head in new directions. I recalled the joy of a HUG trainee seeing a baby turn to her voice for the first time; the satisfaction of a breastfeeding mother recognizing her baby’s Zones and SOSs; the confidence of a nursing student teaching new parents about infant care.
Nurses need to innovate because patients’ needs change, time moves on, and resources come and go. Having a great idea is a good place to start, but the effort to pull it off requires sustained passion, continual foresight, and constant tenacity. Reflect on what matters to you, consider what you uniquely bring to that issue, and get busy. Find the courage to jump in. Today’s good idea might just be what the world needs tomorrow.