The intensive care unit of a hospital is full of risks and responsibilities. A simple mistake may lead to serious consequences. The nurses have to care for multiple patients and must administer life-saving medications quickly and precisely. Intravenous smart pumps have helped reduce the number of errors in the intensive care unit since it can infuse medications into a patient’s bloodstream at a set rate. But nurses still need to set up the system and enter the correct dosage information for each medication.
An associate professor of the Northeastern University School of Nursing, Karen Giuliano has been working on several ways to help nurses handle these tasks as efficiently, cutting down on the potential for errors. Her first fix is to organise the thin plastic tubes that are running from the pumps to the patient. According to Giuliano, nurses must manually trace intravenous or IV tubes before giving medication to a patient. However, the average patient in the intensive care unit is connected to between three and four IV lines and these lines are often tangled together. If the wrong line is picked, a nurse might program the dosage into the wrong smart pump or administer a drug that should be going into a major vein into a smaller, peripheral one. These mistakes could over- or under-dose a patient, or delay the delivery of life-saving medications. Thus, Giuliano has designed a simple device to prevent the IV lines from tangling. It’s a flat piece of plastic with cutouts to hold four IV lines in parallel, so that a nurse can quickly follow one line from the pump to the patient.
Jack Cardin, a high school student at the Northeastern University who manages the modeling and printing in the Enabling Engineering lab said, “She came to me with a rough idea for a prototype. Using the tools here in the lab and my 3-D printing skills, I was able to come up with a few prototypes for her”.
Now Giuliano is using Cardin’s prototypes to see if her organisers will work well. This is just one piece of Giuliano’s work. She hopes to change the entire ergonomics of IV setups and develop a standard design which is easier for nurses and safer for patients.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman