Innovation Fellows 2023-24 cohort
October 18, 2023

Channeling Innovation to Improve Well-Being

By Dr. Taura Barr

As we started to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic would shape our lives, an interesting question surfaced:

Was it possible to engage an innovation mindset in a way that improved well-being at a time of extreme stress and worry?

We approached this question from a position of strength. Going into the pandemic, our College of Nursing at The Ohio State University was already recognized as one of the most innovative colleges in the country. We had recently founded the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Leadership, which supported unique academic programs and continuing education opportunities and provided faculty with numerous opportunities to enhance their innovation mindset and fuel their entrepreneurial spirit.

We also knew that anxiety and burnout rates were rising across the spectrum even before COVID-19 came into our lives, leading to high turnover, poor student experiences and poor faculty health and well-being. And the best way we knew to combat it was to address it directly, both for ourselves and for our faculty community.

We launched the Innovation Fellowship at the College of Nursing two months before the world changed in 2020. Faculty members had asked for ways they could better understand how to implement innovation-based methods into their own programs of research, teaching and practice. We coupled that with the knowledge that when innovation competencies such as resiliency, creative thinking, risk-taking, visioning the future, courage and teamwork are enhanced, well-being increases through a bidirectional relationship between innovation competency and well-being.

This unique, evidence-based 12-month program is grounded in connection and guided by the Theory of Integrative Nurse Coaching (TINC). We help fellows build confidence and competence in their work through a self-discovery process to transform and seek life and work integration while bringing meaning and purpose to their careers. Through these healing relationships and community with other fellows, we nurture our Three C’s of Innovation© (Creativity, Courage and Connection). Innovation and well-being emerge from this process, bringing together one’s individual aspects within a collective community. These theoretical underpinnings are implemented through one-on-one and group coaching, education and experiential learning via an innovation project.

Each fellow identifies an innovation project to work on for the year at the start of the program. These projects range among research, practice, teaching and service initiatives. Each fellow is connected to an accountability partner (who is also a fellow in the program) for support and encouragement. Fellows attend monthly online group coaching sessions focused on the basic tenets of holistic transcendental leadership, emotional intelligence and the Three C’s of Innovation©. Fellows also attend monthly online individual coaching sessions where we discuss the fellows’ chosen innovation projects and goals and design a plan to meet their specific needs.

One of the true highlights of the program is the in-person kick-off retreat in Columbus, where fellows connect, inspire and encourage one another at the start of their journey while attending various educational offerings (pitch workshop, design workshop and goal setting practices).

Feedback on the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Fellows express their sincere gratitude to pause and reflect on their passion projects, while creating from a place of alignment to their purpose. When individuals are given permission to be curious and innovative, in a community where they feel supported, they are more fully engaged in their work with higher levels of productivity and enhanced well-being. For many fellows, this is a life-changing experience where they are forever inspired to live and work differently.

The village that supports this journey of discovery – including our Board members, leadership team, fellows and alumni – inspire us, as well. As we continue to offer this life-changing experience for our fellows, we look to expand the program internationally while creating a safe space for fellows to innovate, connect and thrive.

Taura Barr, PhD, RN, FAHA is an associate clinical professor and director of the Innovation Fellowship program at The Ohio State University College of Nursing. She is also an inspirational speaker and is currently working on her second book that describes her personal health challenges and how she has overcome them to thrive in her professional and personal life.

Testimonials from Innovation Fellows

“Participation in this fellowship program has expanded my perspective on innovation and provided practical tips that I will use both in my personal and professional endeavors.”
Angela D. Alston, DNP, MPH, APRN-CNP

“The Ohio State University Center for Healthcare Innovation and Leadership team impressively created a safe space that allowed for vulnerability and growth. This resulted in several "ah-ha" moments as I was challenged. I am grateful for the insight that I've gained, the camaraderie and the ability to witness (and apply) innovation in an evidence-based manner. I enjoyed building insight and the collaboration.”
Miriam Espinoza, DNP, RN

“I highly recommend this fellowship for anyone who is grappling with where they want to go with their innovation. As a nurse and a scientist, I entered this field to help people, to save lives. But getting new discoveries to the people that need them is more challenging than I ever imagined. At the beginning of this fellowship, I had an idea that was showing a lot of promise in its ability to help patients. By the time I finished this fellowship, I had secured funding to produce a first-of-its-kind clinical kit, made significant progress on intellectual property protection and started preparations to launch a start-up company. This was the push that I needed to take my innovation from the bench to the bedside, and you can do it too!!!”
Shannon L. Gillespie, PhD, RN

“Great experience, coaching and support through the innovation process. Networking with other fellows and beyond was truly valuable.”
Audra Hanners, DNP, APRN-CNP

“I appreciated the space to connect, build and innovate my idea. I learned a few entrepreneurial skills that I will take with me. I enjoyed the ability to flesh out my idea in a supportive group setting.”
Uzo Nwankpa, DNP, MSN-PH, RN

“I enjoyed my experience as a fellow. Through individual and group coaching as well as the curriculum content, I was able to identify opportunities for growth and accelerate my project accomplishments!”
Brittany E. Punches, PhD, RN, CEN, FAEN


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