Made by Nurses: Meet 6 Inventors and Learn How to Turn Your Idea Into Reality

Some of the equipment you use every day was made by nurses. Discover a few nurse-made innovations and learn how to make your ideas a reality. Nurses General Nursing Article

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Made by Nurses: Meet 6 Inventors and Learn How to Turn Your Idea Into Reality

Inventors come up with unique ideas for new things. They're curious about the world around them, persistent even when they face obstacles, and love to break complex problems into simple solutions. This definition describes many nurses, which makes it no surprise that nurses develop new inventions daily! 

Let's learn about a few nurse inventors and the products they made and then dive into how you can turn your idea into a practical healthcare product. 

Made by Nurses

You might not know that a nurse created many things you use for daily care. Check out just a few of the most well-known nurse-made inventions.

Color-Coded IV Lines

Complex care can create complex problems that need to be solved. For example, critically ill patients often require multiple IV medications that don't mix well. This situation creates an environment that can cause serious adverse effects or even death. However, RN sisters Terri Barton-Salinas and Gail Barton-Hay helped solve this problem by developing color-coded IV lines to reduce serious IV medication errors. They designed the invention and received a patent in 2003. So, the next time you hang color-coded tubing, whisper a quiet thank you to these sisters! 

Ostomy Bags

Sometimes the people nurses aim to help are a bit closer than those they care for at work. For example, Elise Sorenson's sister Thora had an ostomy surgically created after a cancer diagnosis. Thora shared with her sister that she feared going out in public due to worries about leakage and odor. So Elise got to work creating the idea for the ostomy bag.

She shared her idea with Aage Louis-Hansen, a civil engineer and manufacturer of plastics, and his wife, a nurse.  Together, they created the first ostomy bag and have helped thousands of others like Thora who wanted to live a full life regardless of needing an ostomy. 

Phototherapy and the Bili-bonnet

If you've had a baby or worked with newborns, you know how common it is for neonates to have high bilirubin levels after birth. This condition causes the baby's skin to appear jaundiced or yellow. However, two nurses challenged the status quo of this condition and impacted the care for this high-risk group of patients. As a result, one developed a treatment for high bilirubin, and the other improved the therapy's delivery. 

Sister Jean Ward, a nurse, working in the maternity ward in England, noticed that the babies she cared for had reduced jaundice when they were in sunlight. So she took the babies outside to increase their exposure to sunlight when a doctor noticed the reduced yellowing of the child's skin. This discovery led to the widespread use of phototherapy for high bilirubin levels in infants. 

While phototherapy works wonders for high bilirubin levels, it can damage an infant's eyes if they aren't protected. This problem led to the creation of another invention in the 1990s known as the bili-bonnet by nurse Sharon Rogone, a NICU nurse. She and other NICU workers used various items to cover the eyes of babies needing phototherapy, but none worked well. This frustration caused her to develop a bonnet with attached eye protection. The bonnet is made of stockinette, which allows the light to penetrate and treat the infant's head while the eye protection keeps the eyes from any damage. According to her company's website, Sharon has gone on to develop many other neonatal products and holds eight patents. 


Brian Mohika, RN, BSN, invented CathWear, a catheter leg bag underwear aimed at helping patients feel more confident and comfortable about their catheter. He came up with the idea while working with a patient in the operating room who was visibly uncomfortable from a leaky catheter. Brian began creating a better solution and now has a patent for these comfortable, breathable catheter-concealing underwear that's changing patients' lives. 

Turn Your Ideas into Reality

You might be reading this article thinking of that creative invention you've thought about or even crafted but aren't quite sure how to turn your idea into reality. If this describes you, check out a few ways to get started.

1- Find a Trusted Partner

Most ideas die inside our brains, but it's critical you don't let this happen. Sharing your vision with another nurse or a patient is a significant first step on your innovator journey. Ask them for constructive feedback about your idea. You might even set up regular check-ins with them to share your progress or your prototype.

2- Make a Prototype

Creating a prototype is a necessary step for an inventor. You may need to collaborate with others to make this happen. Depending on your invention, you can put your prototype to work by getting a few volunteers to try it out. Other innovations will require significant work and regulatory clearance before you put them to the test. 

3- Listen to Feedback

No inventors get it 100% right the first time. You must understand that solving problems is a process, and you won't be successful if you aren't open to constructive feedback. 

4- Find a team

If your product gets positive reviews from the first people you show it to, you will need a team's support to get it to the finish line. You might need help with funding, marketing, and legal processes like patents. Take your time to hire the right people who support your mission and vision for your product and company.

Get Started

If you talk to anyone who has invented a new product, they'll likely tell you that not giving up is the hardest part. It will take grit and perseverance to create your product and get it in front of the right people so you can scale your business and sell it to other clinicians or healthcare facilities. 

Have you ever invented a product that can help nurses or patients? Or do you have an idea for a product but are unsure if it's needed?

Tell us more in the comments so we can help expand your vision and make it a reality.


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Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa is a registered nurse with over 23 years of experience. She is a nurse leader and freelance writer who loves challenging the status quo.

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