MacGyver Comes to Healthcare

Roxanne Nelson, BSN, RN


April 12, 2016

From MEDIKit to MakerHealth Space

What began as MEDIKits has transformed into the MakerHealth Space at UTMB, which is the first dedicated makerspace to be installed permanently in a US hospital facility.

The concept took David Marshall, DNP, JD, MSN, RN, chief nursing and patient care services officer at the UTMB Health System, by surprise. "Eighteen months ago I wasn't sure what a maker was," he said. "It kind of sounded like arts and crafts on steroids."

"It all started when I got an email that MIT engineers were going to be in the Houston area, and they asked if I was interested in meeting with them," he explained. "We had some efforts ongoing in innovation in our organization, and I thought it would be a good fit. Nursing had taken a lead in innovation, and we offered classes to some nurses, called innovation forerunners."

Ultimately UTMB was selected as one of the expedition sites. "We had some really good examples of devices nurses had created before this," Dr Marshall said. "One was a wrist-positioning device for cardiac catheterization, and they are still using it in the cath lab. Before that they were propping the patient's arm up on towels." (Figure 2)

Figure 2. UTMB nurse Nicole Wooden displays the left-hand radial arm board for cardiac patients that she designed and created. Courtesy of University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) nurses crafted a cover for IV sites to prevent children from pulling out their IV catheters. (Figure 3)

Figure 3. PICU nurse Anne Dewitt, RN, demonstrates the pediatric IV cover with Nikolas Albarran, principal engineer at Pop Up Labs. Courtesy of University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Another nurse made an apron with multiple pockets so that she could keep her hands free. "She works in our correctional healthcare system, and she made this so that she could open doors and that sort of thing," he explained. "They saw that there was 'making' going on here at UTMB and invited us to participate in their qualitative research study."

A Permanent Home at UTMB

Over time the relationship grew, and then UTMB was asked if they would be interested in creating a permanent space for nurses to create. "They asked if we would be interested in having a place where nurses could kick around ideas, speak with someone who is familiar with using these sorts of tools, or design a prototype. We thought it would be very exciting, so we applied for an internal grant and received additional funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through MakerNurse." This support enabled Young and her team to install the tools, materials, and operational backend for what became the nation's first hospital makerspace, the MakerHealth Space at UTMB.

The space opened in September 2015, and Dr Marshall emphasized that it would be known as a MakerHealth Space, as opposed to MakerNurse, because he wanted it to be available to any healthcare professional interested in designing and innovating devices.


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