Under the MakerNurse initiative, spaces are being set aside for creative innovation in US hospitals. The purpose of these medical ‘fab labs’ is to encourage nurses on the wards to make prototypes of items and equipment that can improve the quality of patient care.
MakerNurse, an initiative that has been hatched from the Little Devices Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), encourages the managers of hospitals across the United States to set up an innovation space on the premises. The basic aim is to harness the creativity of nurses and other medical staff who deal with patients on a day-to-day basis, so as to improve the provision of healthcare to patients.
These spaces are reminiscent of ‘fab labs’ in the realm of tech hardware enthusiasts. They are equipped with materials, handy tools and standard medical instruments, plus such advanced items as 3D printers and laser cutters. Beyond brainstorming and identifying problems, the spaces are designed to enable nurses and other hospital staff to put together or customise items they can actually use in practice in order to optimise patient care within the hospital environment. ‟We hope healthcare staff will come to realise that they can make their own ideas work and that innovation doesn’t always require huge R&D expenditure,” underlines MakerNurse co-founder Jose Gomez-Marquez.
The MakerNurse originators argue that nurses, who work closely with patients are actually in the best position to respond to their needs on the ground. ‟There’s a coordinator on hand in the room to help those who wish to be part of this initiative to familiarise themselves with the tools. S/he’s not there to provide solutions but simply to aid the creative process,” Gomez-Marquez explains.
A number of hospitals in the United States have already opened ‘makerspaces’, and the MakerNurse designers are currently looking to export the concept abroad as well as bringing the ‘maker’ movement inside a range of organisations such as retirement homes. And why not get the patients themselves –who are, after all, those most affected – to come up with some innovative solutions for hospital care?