Join the "Book" Club: Design Thinking for Health—Test

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Join the "Book" Club: Design Thinking for Health—Test


Jenn Bodine, DNP, FNP-C, NPD-BC, CEN
Renee Davis, MSN, RN, NPD-BC
Tabitha Kinlaw, MBA, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, CNOR, ONC
Jillian A. Russell, MSN, RN, NPD-BC

In this month’s final Design Thinking for Health ANPD Book Club review, we explore the crucial, iterative, and final step of the design thinking process: Test, but your design thinking journey should not end here! Take advantage of the resources listed below and reach out to share your design thinking stories of success.



Jenn Bodine, DNP, FNP-C, NPD-BC, CEN

The test stage in design thinking is where the rubber meets the road. During this stage, the prototype is tested and retested to make improvements. Mautz (2019) noted that we should look for springboards or ways to make incremental changes to improve things in small ways. This idea allows us to see endless possibilities and gives us the confidence to tackle more significant issues. Feedback is critical during the test stage, and it is essential that the testing is done in an effective manner. Dam and Siang (2020) identified best practices for gathering feedback on a prototype. They stressed the importance of keeping the testing user-focused and being adaptable enough to change the prototype as you receive feedback. Finally, the input from the end-user is invaluable as they will be the ones using the final solution. Their recommendations help ensure that your product is exactly what is needed.

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Renee Davis, MSN, RN, NPD-BC

This is where the rubber really hits the road! Although this phase is just as iterative as the other phases, this is where all the defining, ideating, prototyping, and of course, empathizing gets put to the test (pun intended). I enjoyed Dr. Cunningham’s comparison and contrast of healthcare typically using the “scientific method” and large-scale studies to make change, typically a very lengthy process, versus the innovation space, which starts small and uses rapid fire speed, so less time is spent on talking and more time is spent doing. The Test phase takes the voice of actual end-users and applies their thoughts and experiences to a product or process to guide constant iteration, making the final product even better than when first imagined and tested. I like how this phase ties everything together but mainly loops empathy back into the forefront, as observation is essential in this phase. Having that “beginners’ mindset,” as mentioned in the Envision chapter, is a great way to put this process into context, as it allows us to look at the many directions the design is going and how it is addressing “human need”. I believe that with anything we do, especially in nursing professional development, and particularly during these unusual times, we should always go back to our why, as Simon Sinek mentioned in his TED Talk, as that is what motivates people to be on board with a plan, product, or process, and test “early and often”. I especially agreed with testing as “if you know you are wrong” because I feel that puts us in a more receptive mindset, one that is open to the many iterations that evolve from this important phase of Design Thinking. 

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Tabitha Kinlaw, MBA, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, CNOR, ONC

Finally, we get to the last stage of the Design Thinking process model – the test phase. However, this phase really should not be viewed as a final step as NPD practitioners should continually refine their designs and products based on feedback received from stakeholders. This reiterates that NPD practitioners should always remember that design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process. The test phase actually ends up taking the NPD practitioner right back to the origin of design thinking, empathy, as it affords an opportunity to obtain crucial feedback and empathize once more with stakeholders. To me, all of this aligns nicely with the two key evaluation processes utilized by NPD practitioners, especially formative evaluation processes. While summative evaluations are necessary and crucial, I believe it is often the conduction of formative evaluations that provide insight along the way so that NPD practitioners can ensure we ‘get it right.’ In addition, there is often further value added as we do not waste precious time and squander resources. I especially liked the structured feedback mechanisms highlighted in the reading - the “Feedback Capture Grid” method and the “I Like, I Wish, What If.” These mechanisms not only provide a clear way by which to analyze feedback received, but they also invite stakeholders to provide holistic and candid feedback (Dam & Siang, 2018). In reflection on the test phase of the design thinking process and our recent celebration of Nurse’s Day – May 12th, which corresponds with the birth of the first professional nurse, Florence Nightingale, I cannot help but believe that our founder actually foreshadowed the iterative process of design thinking when she said, “Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses. We must be learning all of our lives."

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 Jillian Russell, MSN, RN, NPD-BC

Testing early and often is a cornerstone of the design thinking process. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist, so testing something early—before it is ‘ready’ in my eyes—is not always easy. However, I am challenged to look at the situation through a different lens. The user-centric approach is meant to guide the Test phase through cyclical iterations to garner the most valuable feedback to maximize results. What an amazing opportunity to amplify learning and make an impact! These modules have left me inspired and eager to experience design thinking in practice. Will you join me?

Thank you for joining us over the last six months as we explored design thinking. We hope this has inspired you to use design thinking to create innovative solutions to common nursing professional development (NPD) issues. If you are new to design thinking, we recommend completing the Design Thinking for Health course. Each module contains time-segmented elements that you can complete at your own pace. If you are interested in sharing your story of design thinking in action, reach out to Jillian Russell, MSN, RN, NPD-BC at

Additional resources:

  • Listen to the NPD Forecast Design Thinking podcast episode.
  • Read Erika Grimes and Jenny Harshman’s article Enhancing the Learner’s Experience with Design Thinking in September’s TrendLines.


Bodine, J., & Russell, J. (Hosts). (2020, August). Design thinking [Audio podcast episode]. In NPD Forecast. Association for Nursing Professional Development.

Dam, R. F., & Siang, T. Y. (2020). Test your prototypes: How to gather feedback and maximise learning.

Design Thinking for Health. (2020). Design thinking for health.

Mautz, S. (2019, April 15). Want to foster remarkable innovation? Bill Gates paid 30.8 million for a book that holds the 2 word key.

TED Talk. (2009, September 30). Designers-Think Big!

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