Pop Up Labs Help Nurses Make Projects to Help Patients

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Nurses at a Des Moines hospital are coming up with creations to help their patients.

Ideas are coming to life inside a Blank Children's Hospital lounge. “This is my 3D mold," explained UnityPoint Health PICU Neonatal Transport Nurse Brittany Hruska as she showed a project she is working on. She started researching and creating earmuffs for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit a couple years ago.

"In the NICU, we have a lot of noise that we can't eliminate between the ventilators and just talking that happens. There's been tons of research on how damaging it is to babies. It's bad for their growth, development. It's bad for their brains," said Hruska.

A pop-up lab at Blank Children’s Hospital through a company called Maker Health helped her improve her invention. "Before I was hand cutting these. They would take me about an hour to make a set of them. Nurse maker helped me learn how to do computer aided design software and we 3D printed molds and they helped me find liquid foam, so now I can make lots of these pretty quickly."

UnityPoint Health hosted several pop-up labs throughout the summer. Nurses brought their projects. Maker Health provided resources to perfect them.

UnityPoint Health Maker Nurse Champion Alisha Tompkins said, “I always knew nurses were very, very smart and had several ideas, but it's just having those resources and the ability to make it reality. That's what Maker Nurse is helping us do."

About a dozen projects are currently in the works, including a communication board for Spanish-speaking patients. Other projects improve patient care and even nurse’s workflow. "We made this medication tray to put underneath the computer. It will just slide out and they can prepare their meds there," said Tompkins as she showed a project.

Hruska's earmuffs are almost ready. She's working with the quality improvement and the research and ethics committees to make sure the earmuffs are safe for babies. "I just know the babies need it, and I'm really excited to get these to the babies. I think it's exciting I can make them,” she said.

The earmuffs will cost less than a dollar per set to make.

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