Quiz: A Nurse Invented That? Inventiveness, Ingenuity, and Innovation in Nurses

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS


June 06, 2014

Anita Dorr, and her original crash cart. Images courtesy of the Emergency Nurses Association

Every hospital department and corridor has one, and it is carefully checked every day to make sure that it is fully stocked and ready for the next emergency. It's the crash cart, such a familiar piece of the hospital landscape that we can't imagine a time when it didn't exist.

Apparently, there was such a time. In the 1960s, nurses responding to a cardiac arrest typically stuffed their pockets full of items that might be needed and scrambled for the rest. That is, until emergency department nurse Anita Dorr had a better idea.[5] After years of observing the inefficient and sluggish way that supplies were gathered for a code, often resulting in the loss of precious time, Dorr devised a mobile solution.

Her husband built a red-painted (naturally!) wheeled cart that could hold all of the supplies needed to initially manage a code (called a "crisis" at the time). Dorr, however, was both a logical thinker and a careful planner. She arranged the drawers of the cart anatomically, placing intubation equipment in the area closest to the patient's head, and supplies for intravenous access in the area that would be positioned closer to the foot of the bed. Medications needed in a crisis were stored in the middle drawer. The cart also held a foot-operated suction machine, a battery-operated cardiac monitor, and a clipboard for record-keeping.[6]

Although the crisis cart has evolved over the years into the modern crash cart, Dorr's fundamental ideas are still evident in the logical arrangement of drawers to organize supplies according to intervention (eg, medication drawer, airway drawer, intravenous access drawer, etc); ease of mobility for rapid response; and ease of locating the cart, the color red.

Unfortunately, Dorr was unable to patent her invention, but her career as a leader in the field was further distinguished when she cofounded the Emergency Department Nurses Association (now the Emergency Nurses Association) in 1970.[6]


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