September 2013
David Vlahov

This past week at the World Maker Faire in New York City, MIT’s Little Devices Lab and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched a nationwide initiative called MakerNurse. The goal is to find do-it-yourself nurses and support their efforts to fabricate new devices and devise work-arounds to fix health care delivery problems and improve patient care. 

The initiative makes almost too much sense. Nurses are on the front lines of health care delivery and closer to the patient on a continual basis than any other professional in the system – and certainly closer than conventional engineering labs. As such, we are uniquely positioned to identify suboptimal technology and design breakthrough solutions to improve care. MakerNurse aims to leverage this positioning to accelerate the ingenuity of nurses working across the United States. In its first six months, it will uncover and collect stories from inventive nurses to determine what support they need to innovate effectively.

At UC San Francisco School of Nursing, this is a process we understand well, as we’ve steadily built our own nurse-technology interface initiative. Over the past two years, a number of our faculty have engaged with other clinicians, patients and private industry to improve and/or develop new hospital monitors, mobile apps, avatars and gaming platforms. An October 2012 article in this publication highlighted some of our ongoing work in this area. These efforts have largely focused on working with product developers to provide expert advice and guidance on the clinical products, as well as the means to properly validate these products. We have consulted with intellectual property staff to learn how we should conduct ourselves going into these conversations, to ensure that we get proper credit as the work moves forward. 

MakerNurse is taking a slightly different slant. Its focus is on empowering nurses themselves to design and prototype the devices and workarounds. This is an exciting development. We are enthusiastic about the possibilities and are reaching out to MakerNurse to request a conference where we can share ideas and strategies for collaborating on the development of tools, devices and programs. Coordination and collaboration will optimize our efforts to improve care and will better enable the world to see the critical contribution that nurses can and do make.