Devices & Technology

IVs, Crash Carts & More: A Salute to Nurse Inventors and Innovators


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By Christina Orlovsky Page, contributor 

May 9, 2013 - If necessity is the mother of invention and Florence Nightingale is the mother of modern nursing, it’s only fitting that during National Nurses Week--culminating in Nightingale’s birthday, May 12--we take the time to recognize nurses’ inventions and the talented professionals who used their creative energy to improve patient care. Ever hear of the crash cart, for instance?  It is just one of the many innovations that nurses have helped devise. 

So here is a salute to just a few nurse inventors, from past and present, who realized a need and turned their ideas into reality.

A Nurse-Turned-Physical Therapist’s Feeding Apparatus for Amputees 

For Bessie Blount, nursing was just one step on her long career path, but it was a step that led to several technological advances in assistive devices for amputees. Working with veterans disabled in World War II, Blount, who trained in nursing and then physical therapy, created an electronic device in the early 1950s that allowed amputees to eat on their own. When Blount didn’t receive support for her invention from the American Veteran’s Association, she donated the rights to the French government, and the rights to another invention--a disposable hospital basin--to Belgium. Blount, who became a pioneer among African American women in the mid-century, ended her career path in forensic science, which she practiced until her death in 2009. 

An ER Nurse Leader’s Profession-Changing Invention and Association  

In the 1960s, emergency department nurse Anita Dorr, RN, recognized the length of time it took to gather the supplies the unit needed in a critical situation. Together with her staff, who created a list of necessities, and her husband, who built a wood prototype, Dorr envisioned a wheeled “crisis cart” in 1968 that has since evolved into the crash cart of today. Dorr’s dedication to emergency nursing eventually led to the establishment of the Emergency Room Nurses Organization in 1970--a group that would later become the Emergency Nurses Association, today a 40,000-member-strong organization devoted to strengthening and supporting the professional specialty. 

A Mother-Daughter Duo’s IV Catheter Shield 

In the early 1990s, mother-daughter duo Betty M. Rozier, an entrepreneur, and Lisa M. Vallino, RN, BSN, a pediatric emergency nurse, teamed up to establish I.V. House, Inc., an intravenous therapy organization based in Chesterfield, Mo. With products designed out of a need Vallino had seen in her clinical years for site protectors that eased patient anxiety and reduced reinsertions, the original I.V. House device was patented in 1993; today, millions of I.V. House site protectors have been provided to hospitals worldwide. 

A Sister Act for IV Safety  

Inventive IV lines took a colorful turn for nurse sisters Terri Barton-Salinas, RN, and Gail Barton-Hay, RN, whose half-century-plus of combined nursing experience provided helped them see the need for increased patient safety surrounding IV lines. Acknowledging the hazards of using clear, indistinguishable lines, the pair assisted with the product development of ColorSafe IV Lines, lines available in red, green, orange, blue and purple, with corresponding colored labels for the IV bags.  

A College’s Nursing-Engineering EHR Collaboration 

Perhaps no place is better for innovation than a university campus, which affords bright minds the opportunity to brainstorm, collaborate and experiment with creativity. One such innovative collaboration came out of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where the colleges of nursing and engineering partnered to create the DocuCare EHR, which integrates electronic health records into a simulated learning tool for students, changing the way nursing students learn and preparing them for the increasingly EHR-heavy hospital workforce. Developed by Tami Wyatt, PhD, RN, associate professor of nursing, and Xueping Li, PhD, associate professor of industrial and information engineering--co-directors of the university’s Health Information Technology and Simulation Laboratory--the product was purchased by health care publishing giant Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) in 2010 and is being utilized in nursing school curricula across the country.



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