For the first time, the White House has honored innovative nurses who invent, hack, or "make," devices and workarounds that fix healthcare problems and improve patient care.
Roxana Reyna, BSN, RNC-NIC
Roxana Reyna, BSN, RNC-NIC, WCC, was at the Lincoln Memorial on her cell phone when she took a break from her sightseeing to talk with me about the "making" she does as a Skin and Wound Care Prevention Specialist at Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi, TX. She was in Washington, DC, as a special invited guest of the White House, and the excitement in her voice was obvious.
"I was invited as an honored maker to the first-ever Maker Faire that was held at the White House," she told me. "When the Washington people heard about MakerNurse, they were excited that such making was going on at the bedside."
MakerNurse, as you might remember, is an initiative of the Little Devices Lab at MIT that's supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It has collected stories from nurses who invent, hack, or "make," innovative, new devices and workarounds that fix healthcare problems and improve patient care.
Reyna's work involves wound care and prevention for babies and kids.
"I tell the mom, 'You know MacGyver? I'm MacGyver,'" she says.
She measures, cuts, experiments, figures what works and what doesn't, and works with materials that are often manufactured with adults in mind.
"My daily making consists of skin and wound care prevention, such as cutting up foam to protect against pressure under drains and tubes, crusting with advanced products to create barriers, and teaching other nurses how to make in order to provide continuity of care," she told me by email after our phone interview.
Reyna adds that she has "the support and collaboration of my surgeons and physicians that I work with that allows me to design, create, and make."
Although she has that kind of ongoing support and collaboration at her hospital, much of the making nurses do every day in hospitals across the country goes unnoticed and unheralded. For many nurses, figuring out solutions to patient care problems in this "MacGyver" kind of way is just part of how they do their job.
"It's having to troubleshoot and come up with a solution for the problem," says Reyna. "It's just like the nursing process."
For nurses who are doing quiet—and not-so-quiet—making, MakerNurse has provided a forum for them to share and celebrate their achievements. Since its launch last fall, MakerNurse has featured nurse-made fabrications such as a pediatric nebulizer that doubled as a pacifier; a reusable, soft-padded tracheostomy collar; and an IV shield.
Now, MakerNurse says it has launched an online community dedicated to empowering and encouraging nurses who engage in this kind of innovative making.
And later this summer, MakerNurse will release a series of tools and resources to empower nurses to make and innovate at the bedside, improving patient care and health. According to MakerNurse, the new tools will include step-by-step instructions on how to make a variety of health-related tools.
Hospitals can encourage nurse making and innovation by taking a page out of Driscoll Children's Hospital's book.
"The thing I love about it there is they give me the chance to grow, to be creative, to do things I need to do to help the patient, to see help them survive, to help them get home," Reyna says. It involves daring, risk taking, empowering nurses at the bedside, collaboration, and allowing ideas to flow from nurses, not from administration, she says.
One of the things she's proudest of is a dressing she helped create for babies born with omphalocele, a birth defect in which the intestines protrude out of the body and are covered only by a thin layer of tissue. Surgery will eventually repair the defect, but until then, it's at risk of opening and infection, and needs protection.
"We apply a Hydrofiber dressing that is made of an antimicrobial," Reyna says. "We've been able to take the properties of a dressing…shape it, form it, and be able help the patient."
It's an innovation that pays off.
"We've been able to see no mortality with what we do, no infections with what we do," she says. "We've had kids go home as soon as 11 days."
Hopefully with the new tools coming from MakerNurse, more nurses will have the help and encouragement to take making to the bedside, too.
Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.