Home > RNJ > 2008 > March/April > Editorial: Cultivating Creativity

Editorial: Cultivating Creativity
Elaine Tilka Miller, DNS RN CRRN FAHA FAAN Editor

Although creativity is difficult to quantify, it remains an invaluable asset in nursing practice. Our assessment and treatment protocols are constantly being updated, and technology is in flux. In addition to the dynamic and complex nature of their work, rehabilitation nurses deal with challenges regarding patients and treatments that may frequently appear as insurmountable obstacles requiring ingenuity beyond the obvious to create new and viable solutions. Nicholas Webb, an inventor and a nationally recognized expert in medical inventions, has stated that “nurses are among the cleverest inventors of all” whose efforts greatly improve patient care (Farella, 2001, para. 2).

Everyone has creative capabilities, but these abilities are not always cultivated, and this is also true for nurses. In general, nurses tend to prefer order and standardization. Their expectations are based on training, education, experience, and scientific evidence. Order and standardization help provide a predictable structure for a constantly changing work environment. Creativity, on the other hand, thrives on initial uncertainty and keeps nurses fresh, motivated, energized, and more alert to sudden and unpredictable variances among patients and other aspects of the healthcare environment. So why don’t we encourage more creativity?

Nurses have a rich history of creativity. For instance, in 1968, Anita Dorr, an emergency department supervisor, invented the first “crash cart.” Prior to her invention, nurses across the country had to gather equipment and medicine each time a patient required emergency care, and precious time was lost. Originally her cart was called a crisis cart, but it was later renamed a crash cart. As a result of her ingenuity, many lives have been saved, and her invention has been adopted worldwide (Anscombe Wood, 2004). Other recent nurse inventors include Vivian Carrasquilla-Lopez, a staff nurse in New York who developed the One-Step Gravity Feeding Flow Adapter that permits nurses to administer medications without interfering with feedings; and Renee Duplessie-Miller, a nurse in Arizona who developed the IVease stabling device that keeps IVs more secure on hairy arms (Farella, 2001).

A strong link between creativity and healing has also been documented. Hanneman (2006), for example, discovered that painting and music can decrease depression and the sense of isolation that patients with dementia feel in nursing homes. Moreover, Lane (2005) found that art and dance foster physical and psychological healing.

Creativity is readily apparent in this issue of Rehabilitation Nursing, as authors describe their original approaches to care issues, ways to synthesize knowledge, and unique research pertaining to rehabilitation nursing practice. Taormina, for instance, describes how a rehabilitation facility partnered with an airline carrier to provide a very meaningful reality-based experience that fostered increased independence and confidence for persons with severe physical disabilities and also promoted positive experiences for the airline and hospital employees. The article by Yap and Davis on tailored messages for fostering physical activity provides an excellent illustration of how literature can be reviewed and synthesized to provide recommendations for practice, but also poses additional questions that need to be explored. Weinel describes the integration of ceiling-lift technology for patient-handling tasks into nursing practice and explains how these modifications enhance patient safety and dignity. Then Neal-Boylan and Guillett, along with Dolansky and Moore, present their novel research and elaborate on the ramifications for practice. And finally, Heinemann describes how the State of the Science of Postacute Rehabilitation symposium served as a catalyst to expand the performance of evidence-based research that can be used to shape healthcare policy.

A major challenge to nursing management is developing and maintaining organizational cultures that value innovation, change, and creativity. When these attributes are encouraged, organizations will become more responsive to the multiplicity of factors affecting healthcare delivery. The expansion of creativity within organizations also fosters the evolution of nursing practice, enhances care delivery, and improves organizational performance.

Creativity can be cultivated at an individual level and organizational level if these guidelines are kept in mind:

  • Understand that creativity takes energy, tenacity, and a solution-oriented mindset.
  • Realize that what we create may have more far-reaching possibilities than we ever expected.
  • Devise ways to reward new ideas and new learning.
  • Avoid adverse reactions or the rejection of new ideas.
  • Remember that creativity is best fostered when people facing a challenge have the freedom to explore new ideas and approaches and receive encouragement and organizational support.

Not only is creativity in nursing a valuable pursuit, but it will help our profession stay fresh, vital, and relevant. Although creativity requires time, resources, positive energy, and the courage to be different, the rewards are enormous for our field, our patients, and their families.


Anscombe Wood, D. (2004). [Untitled article.] Retrieved December 19, 2007, from http://community.nursingspectrum.com/MagazineArticles/article.cfm?AID=12727.

Farella, C. (2001). Career Fitness Online. Retrieved December 19, 2007, from http://community.nursingspectrum.com/MagazineArticles/article.cfm?AID=3561.

Hanneman, B. (2006). Creativity with dementia patients. Gerontology, 52(1), 59–65.

Lane, M. (2005). Creativity and spirituality in nursing: Implementing art in healing. Holistic Nursing Practice, 19(3), 122–125.