New MakerNurse Project Aims to Bring Nurse Making to the Forefront of Health Care and Spur Better Patient Care

Nurses are solving challenges encountered at the bedside every day, improvising workarounds and fabricating new devices to improve patient care. Spearheaded by the Little Devices Lab at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, MakerNurse will elevate and accelerate the ingenuity of nurses working across the United States. The initiative was spotlighted at the 2013 World Maker Faire in New York and discussed in a panel featuring Jose Gomez-Marquez, Director of the Little Devices Lab at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Lori Melichar, Senior Program Officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In hospitals across the country, nurses are discovering ways to improve and create new tools and technologies that make health care more affordable and effective, and lead to better ways of caring for patients. Yet their fabrications often remain in the units in which they practice—they aren't exposed to the scrutiny and resources that may lead to improvement or might allow them to spread to other units.

Over the next six months, MakerNurse will be collecting stories from nurses who self-identify as “maker nurses” to better understand what drives them to use what’s around them to fix problems and improve the patient experience, and how best to nurture the creative potential of the American nurse.

“We know from our research that some of the best DIY technologies being used in hospitals and clinics around the world are the inventions of nurses,” says Gomez-Marquez. “Yet these stealth innovators do not receive the recognition, support, tools, or training that they need to maximize their ability to transform the way health care is delivered.”

Because nurses are on the front lines of health care delivery and closer to the patient than conventional engineering labs in America, they are uniquely positioned to design break-through solutions to improve care.

By examining nurse innovation in U.S. hospitals, MakerNurse hopes to uncover the behaviors, circumstances and cultural drivers that enhance resourcefulness and innovation among hospital nurses, and identify tools and resources that could help more nurses bring their ideas to fruition and lead improvements in patient care.

“We know nurse innovators are out there, making devices that help their patients,” said Melichar. “Through MakerNurse, we hope to shine a light on those innovations, and create a culture where nurses who find ways to solve problems on their own are celebrated and supported.”

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