Let me set the scene: it’s a dinner party with my wife’s friends, (bunch of people I don’t know) and, as usual, people are spouting off about their occupations and their kids and their pets and inevitably my turn arrives with a casual question: “So what do you do, Josh?”
When I was in nursing, my response never failed to get a chuckle or at the very least, a raised eyebrow. Usually a lame joke about the movie “Meet the Parents”, or something like that. No one ever went deeper because even though I was an anomaly (OMG a nurse AND a man??!!) everyone knows what a nurse does.
I left nursing two years ago to pursue quality improvement. My thought was that as a nurse I can improve my practice and maybe influence others - but as a consultant I could change health care. After spending some time in the Quality Improvement world, I landed a sweet gig with The AHS Design Lab. So now when I’m at dinner parties, I get to tell people that I’m a design consultant.
Nobody knows what that is, so I’ve been doing some deep thinking about how I can explain this work. How do I reconcile my passion for nursing with no longer being on the front lines? Am I still a nurse at all?
I was introduced to human-centered design early in my career and it quickly became a secret weapon I incorporated into every project, meeting and presentation. But something always bothered me: were we improving our services to benefit the service or to benefit the patient?
Despite good intentions, it seemed that engagement with patients and staff often occurred too late in the game to have meaningful impact, and what little impact there was often got lost in red tape. Consultation with the people who we were trying to improve for felt tokenistic. Human-centered design changes this mindset to design for the people who have the most to gain from the solution.
So when I heard about the D4AHS team, I was inspired and maybe even a little awestruck by their existence - here was a team totally devoted to the same mindset as I had! They included patients and staff in their processes from the very beginning; they walked the walk and talked the talk.
I had found my tribe.
I starting signing up for everything available that was human-centered design and immersed myself in design thinking. Before long, I became a Fellow of the Design Lab and a short time later, a full member of their team.
So am I still a nurse? Yes, I am. It’s just that instead of nursing patients, I now nurse ideas and innovation. I nurse creativity. And in doing so, I am hopeful and excited for the future of healthcare. I know that if we start designing healthcare alongside patients, families and front-line staff, our system will become better for everyone.
If you want to be inspired as I am, I encourage you to take a look – a long, hard look – at whether you’re trying to improve the system, or trying to improve the patient experience. There’s a difference! Talk to the people that are experiencing the problems you’re trying to solve. Start with empathy and don’t be afraid to solicit feedback from the very beginning. Don’t be afraid to fail!
We’re a small but mighty team, and every day I’m in awe of how game-changing this world of design thinking can be. And if this mindset makes sense to you like it made sense to me, don’t wait. Find out more – check out our website, listen to our podcasts, and take some time to explore and think about how the problems you are facing today could be approached in a completely new way.
But no more jokes about male nurses, okay? Because it’s 2018.