Nursing & design thinking
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Nursing & design thinking

Design thinking
Social innovation

With over 40,000 vacant nursing posts in England, there is a crisis in the NHS; one that does not look like it is abating. At the heart of this lies a lack of uptake, with young people today turning away from nursing in numbers. It’s a huge, growing problem and one in need of innovation.

At each Design Thinkers Bootcamp we work with a different sponsor client, who delivers a unique social challenge that forms the focus of the Bootcamp course. Around the challenge, delegates go on a design thinking journey, learning all the tools and techniques needed to become a design thinker over the five fast-paced days.

For our Autumn Bootcamp we worked with NHS Horizons. NHS Horizons supports leaders to think differently about large-scale change, improve collaboration and accelerate change. For Horizons, this Bootcamp was important in its potential to impact an upcoming six-month programme, focussing on nursing. As a result, this programme built the foundations of the challenge that framed the week.

The nursing challenge:

"How do we inform and inspire 15 to 17-year olds about nursing as a professional pathway, such that they consider it a viable career route for them and their peers?"

The course

On October 14th the delegates, coming from companies including Stella McCartney, Deutsche Bank, Vodafone, VISA, Africa Alliance of YMCA and more, all came together in London to face this challenge head on.

After an introduction into the nature and scale of the challenge from Bev Matthews, the Programme Lead for Transforming Perceptions of Nursing and Midwifery, the group were given a masterclass into ethnographic research by Becky Rowe. Becky is an award-winning research specialist and owner and Head of Research at Revealing Reality. She brings her expertise on day one, showcasing the importance of user-centred research and the insights it can draw.

After the masterclass, Becky then worked alongside our facilitators to teach delegates how to conduct ethnographic research. Then, in true design thinking fashion, it was into learning-by-doing. The delegates were sent off to various spots around London, including hospitals, health clinics and more, interviewing a wide range of research participants, from nurses to hospital managers.

Over the next three days the delegates then built on this research to formulate their concepts, simultaneously learning the design thinking toolkit along the way. Tools such as Customer Journeys, Personas, Stakeholder Mapping, prototyping and ideation were put to full use, helping use the research to build the various concepts. These sessions were led by our facilitators Goldie Chaudhuri and Rachel Smith, alongside the masterclasses from specialists including Joe Ferry, Clive Grinyer, Arnoud Koning and the Design Thinkers Academy London co-founder, David Kester.

After a session on persuasive selling with Arnoud Koning, the groups were then put in front of the jury panel to present their concepts. Representatives from NHS Horizons, including Horizons Director, Kathryn Perrera formed part of the panel, alongside members from nursing and the Design Thinkers Academy London.

The concepts


Concept 1: Dare You Care

Dare You Care targeted teenagers looking for purpose and impact in their future careers. As a result of their ethnographic research, the team felt that there were two big misconceptions when it came to nursing: firstly, that it was not seen as a proper career and secondly, that nursing was all about bed care. Consequently, they looked to challenge those ideas and built a marketing campaign playing on the concept of care. For this they created the acronym:

  • Communicator
  • Academic
  • Researcher
  • Enterpriser

The programme looked to change perceptions of nursing, not just among teenagers, but with parents and teachers too. To do this, the hashtag #DareYouCare was born. This marketing campaign would then run alongside a more practical solution, in the form of a mobile unit. The mobile unit would bring nursing to schools, prompting teenagers to interact directly in the profession. Through virtual reality and escape rooms, it would look to bring nursing to life, as a result driving home the varied, challenging and impactful career that nursing is.

Concept 2: Nursing Rocks

Nursing Rocks looked to influence the more aspirational teenagers, prompting them to “take charge of their own life”. Using an online platform, it used questions to funnel the nursing direction for the individual. The platform showcased a wide range of interactive tools, which also helped to highlight the full breadth of nursing careers. By highlighting all the various avenues available in nursing, Nursing Rocks looked to drive wider engagement, all under the hashtag #NursingRocks.

Concept 3: Discover Nursing

Discover Nursing focused on those who were being failed by the system. Using virtual reality, it brought nursing to life, highlighting the nature of the job in all its various branches. The VR headsets would put teenagers at the centre of the action, to truly get an understanding of what a nursing career could entail. The virtual platform also presented a wide range of case studies, finding stories that aligned with the user to drive inspiration. From their research they found that a lot of the right information is out there, just in a wide variety of places. Therefore, they wanted to provide a platform that collated this and offered clear steps for users to find the right pathway for them.

Concept 4: Is This You?

Is This You? focussed on the more isolated individuals in society. Using a wide range of case study stories, it worked to make nursing relatable to everyone. The question Is This You? was used to prompt reflection in teenagers and help them find inspiration in others’ stories. Furthermore, the Is This You? quiz questionnaire would help direct individuals to a path, personalised for them. To help build their interest in the career, targeted events and information packages would also be built for the individual.

"We felt all of them understood who we were trying to target. You got under the skin of what we are trying to do with this work. In every single presentation there is something fresh that we are taking away as an idea." Kathryn Perrera, NHS Horizons Director

All four presentations provided similar themes and concepts, yet demonstrated unique branches into different engagement opportunities. After much deliberation the jury panel choose Dare You Care as the winner, because it built on a strong understanding of the common perceptions of nursing and provided a rounded, well thought out opportunity for nursing and Horizons. “The idea of CARE and how it was reframed” was the highlight of the concept and an idea that NHS Horizons were excited to take away.

"Best investment of 5 days I have ever made" – Neil Halls, Innovation Strategist, VISA

100% Recommendation Rate. 4.8/5 course score 

"The course is facilitated by masters in design thinking. It promises to open your mind to ideas that otherwise seem locked. Everyone should be a Design Thinker, everyone should come to DTA" - David Oyawoye, Business & Experience Designer, Softcom