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“You have to fail if you want to succeed.”

Rebecca Love, BHS’08, and Director of Nurse Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University’s School of Nursing, is on a mission to give nurses the innovation platform they deserve.

When speaking to Rebecca Love, BHS’08, you can almost hear her thinking about what’s next. Her contagious energy makes anyone who speaks to her want to get involved in her cause: to inspire the next generation of nurses, and change the future of nursing.

It’s a tall order, but Love’s speed of progress is relentless. Barely two years since launching, and becoming the director of the Nurse Innovation & Entrepreneurship (NIE) program at the Bouvé College of Health Sciences’ School of Nursing, Love has already attracted companies like AARP, American Nurses Association and Johnson & Johnson, among others. In April 2018, Northeastern University will host a Hackathon – a day where computer programmers, graphic designers, project managers and others come together to develop software solutions for a specific problem. This will the first such endeavor for the School of Nursing in partnership with specifically to address the growing challenge opioid crisis.

Love was not always committed to the nursing profession. “My dad is a lawyer and mom is a nurse. I knew I wanted to do one or the other, but had only applied for one nursing program – Northeastern’s Master in Direct Entry Nursing program. I already had a few acceptances from law schools,” recalls Love. When she got accepted to Northeastern, she knew she had to try the program. “I was always interested in healthcare and nurses have an in-depth understanding of issues that impact healthcare.”

Love recalls the program as one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do – and that’s saying a lot, given she’s worked as a nurse at a hospital and at Veteran’s Affairs, worked as a Hospice Nurse Practitioner, established her own business, and is also a mother of two.

But Love is an entrepreneur to the core, with an instinct to solve problems. It’s how she established her company, HireNurses that solved a critical staffing issue in the nursing world. “I was working at a hospice where patients couldn’t find caregivers at home. And then, I had students complaining about the thousands of applications they were sending into a black hole.” Love saw the solution – a marketplace to connect employers with caregivers. She joined forces with her mother to establish the company, which was recently acquired by Ryalto.

The entrepreneurial journey was tough for Love. “I didn’t know anything about business – how to make financial statements, a business plan, where to start.” She attended a Hackathon at Tufts University, where she was the only nurse in the room. She managed to win second place there and learned everything she needed to know about running a business. More importantly, she had her next big idea: more nurses needed to be involved in developing sustainable, marketable and executable solutions for the healthcare industry given their direct interaction with patients.

Love called Dean Nancy Hanrahan at Northeastern – whom she had never met before – and told her about her experience at the Hackathon. Dean Hanrahan, who Love describes as “the most visionary nurse I’ve ever met in my life” told Love to organize a Hackathon at the university, geared toward nurses. What started as an annual event in June 2016, became a full-fledge program – the NIE – with the goal to help nurses engage in the forefront of healthcare innovation.

Today, NIE is a model for other academic institutions looking to incorporate innovation into nursing. Part of the reason for the program’s global success is its inherent entrepreneurial nature. “We try new things, enhance what works and quickly move away from what doesn’t,” explains Love. “We give nurses what they need, when they need it. For example, one nurse might need a quick Bootcamp, another might need a deeper-dive course, and someone else would prefer a two-day Hackathon instead.”

This ability to be nimble and meet learners’ specific needs is also a Northeastern University ethos. “We know that innovation and entrepreneurship doesn’t happen in a vacuum, or in a traditional education setting. So, we’ve brought Northeastern’s signature experiential learning into the world of nursing. We’re constantly reengineering. We believe failing is part of innovation, and you have to fail if you want to succeed,” Love says.

Love will be presenting the first all-female, all-nurses panel entitled, EntrepreNURSE: Hacking, Making & Disrupting Health, at SXSW on March 10, 2018 in Austin, TX. Before she hits the illustrious SXSW stage, she will join us for a special reception and panel discussion on March 9. To learn more about the Bouvé College of Health Science, visit bouve.northeastern.edu.