Five Medical Innovations Created by Nurses

Happy National Nurses Week! In celebration of nurses everywhere, check out the following post:

Directly caring for patients isn’t the only way nurses help others. Several nurse-inventors have touched millions of lives with their groundbreaking ideas. Below, we’ve rounded up five inventions created by nurses throughout history.



Crash Cart
The crash cart is a familiar sight in intensive care units and emergency rooms around the world. These wheeled carts hold defibrillators, heart monitors, medications, intubation supplies, IV lines and other nursing supplies that can save the life of a patient. Crash carts are standard today, but they weren’t invented until 1968 when Anita Dorr built a wood prototype in her basement. She consulted with her staff to determine the supplies they might need in a crisis and laid them out logically on the cart. While today’s crash carts are a bit different (made from steel rather than wood for sanitary purposes), they’re still standard in hospitals all around the globe. Dorr’s contributions to the field didn’t stop there. She helped found the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA).


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Feeding Tubes for Paralyzed Vets
Another invention was inspired by WWII. Many veterans were paralyzed or became amputees during the war and had no way to feed themselves. That is, until Bessie Blount Griffin invented a tube that patients could operate with their teeth. Patients bit down on the tube, which would then deliver a mouthful of liquified food. Griffin demonstrated her product on the television show The Big Idea, becoming the first woman and first African-American to appear on the show. Griffin continued to innovate, refining her feeding tube concept and developing, among other things, a disposable cardboard emesis basin.

Color-Coded IV Lines
Medication errors both inside and outside hospitals are a major contributing factor to patient illnesses and deaths. Nurses may only have seconds to choose the right IV line from a tangle of clear plastic tubes to administer a medication properly in a crisis. Terri Barton-Salinas used to attach colored masking tape to differentiate IV lines, but the tape kept getting snagged on bed sheets. She decided there had to be a better way. She shared her idea of color-coded IV lines with her sister (and fellow nurse) Gail Barton-Hay over dinner one night in 2002. They reached out to a patent attorney about the concept and received a patent for the aptly-named ColorSafe IV lines the following year. They eventually partnered with a manufacturer to get the actual products made and are now working to get their color-coded IV lines into as many hospitals as possible.



Ostomy Bag
An ostomy is a surgical procedure that allows bodily waste to exit the body through a hole on the abdomen. There are several different types of ostomies, including a colostomy (not to be confused with a colonoscopy), a urostomy and an ileostomy. The first ostomy containers were prone to leaking and were not disposable. When Danish nurse Elise Sorensen took care of her sister after her colostomy in 1954, she realized the drawbacks of the current ostomy bags and set out to make her own. She created an ostomy bag that combined a disposable plastic pouch with secure skin adhesion that guarded against leaks. This is the same basic design that is still used for ostomy bags today.

Baby Bottles with Disposable Liners
Back in the 1940s, because plastic and glass bottles didn’t change shape as babies suckled them, a partial vacuum occurred, leading to babies ingesting more air. Adda May Allen invented a disposable, flexible plastic liner that would close in as the baby drank the milk, reducing the excess air. Playtex now mass-manufactures such bottles.

These five ideas reiterate nurses’ steadfast dedication to improving patient care. As we celebrate this week, give thanks to those tireless individuals proudly wearing their scrubs. Happy National Nurses Week! Who knows what innovations nurses will create in the next few years.


Created in coordination with 
Deborah Swanson, Content Coordinator,


12 Times Nurses Made a Difference in Disaster Relief

In celebration of National Nurses Week, check out the following guest blog:

Throughout history, countless stories endure of nurses rushing to the frontline for those in need. To honor the vital role nurse play in healthcare, the U.S. celebrates National Nurses Week each year May 6-12. From founding the American Red Cross to recent natural disaster relief response, dedicated nurses shed their scrubs to serve others in any setting. Today, let’s highlight 12 times nurses made a difference with hurricane and earthquake relief.

Nurses Serve After Hurricane Maria


Regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Puerto Rico and Dominica, Hurricane Maria took the lives of 550 people and caused an estimated $103 billion in damage. The September cyclone left 80,000 Puerto Ricans without power or medical supplies, leaving medical relief largely to foreign aid organizations.

  • They Begged for More Aid — The nation’s largest nurses’ union, National Nurses United, sent more than 50 nurses to Puerto Rico and Dominica in the days following the hurricane as part of the organization’s Registered Nurse Response Network. The nurses returned home and shared shocking conditions with the media, urging the federal government to send more relief.
  • They Set Up Urgent Care Centers — Haiti is no stranger to natural disaster, so naturally, Heart to Heart International’s Haitian Response Team jumped into action after the devastating hurricane. A team of 10 Haitian doctors and nurses brought medical and humanitarian aid in the form of a makeshift urgent care center. They were some of the only humanitarian responders to provide care in rural Puerto Rico.
  • They Helped the Elderly — According to CNN, after the hurricane, a team of nurses helped deter an elderly woman’s suicide by alerting the mayor of the situation. They also assisted a woman trapped inside an assisted living facility, who had not eaten in three days.
  • They Transported Patients to the Mainland — According to nurse Camrai Damore and respiratory therapist Mark Puknaitis — two Chicago area Maria responders —nurses aided the sick and injured by transferring those with serious medical conditions to the mainland for better quality care.
  • They Visited the Sick at Home — One of the most devastating effects of Hurricane Maria was the total crumble of the infrastructure of many cities. As a result, nurses made in-home visits to suffering Puerto Ricans who were unable to leave their homes. They also helped to set up temporary shelters that were more accessible than hospitals and clinics.

Healing After Harvey

Back in the continental U.S., the country was recovering from another natural disaster. In August, Hurricane Harvey became the first major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 2005. It inflicted nearly $200 billion in damage and displaced more than 30,000 people in the process, primarily in the Houston metropolitan area. It didn’t take long after the storm settled for nurses to come to the rescue from all over the country.


  • They Responded by the Hundreds — Within four days following Harvey, more
    than 300 nurses made their way to Houston to provide essential medical relief to
    the masses, stethoscopes and all. The group of nurses had a broad range of specializations, including NICU, OR and ER nursing.
  • They Brought Supplies — That massive wave of 300 nurses didn’t head to Houston empty-handed. Instead, they brought generators, linens, water tanks, food and medicine. This was especially important due to the fact that Houstonians were forced to completely evacuate several hospitals, but still needed to be prepared for a massive response. Supplies allowed them to administer care just about anywhere.
  • They Covered Shifts — According to reports, a large volume of Houston medical professionals were left homeless due to water damage. Nurses from other parts of the state and the country flocked to Houston to help cover shifts of medical professionals who were forced to deal with personal fallout from the storm.
  • They Helped Clean Up — Days after the storm, medical professionals were forced to return to work, where much had been destroyed due to moisture, mildew and mold. Many nurses who flocked to the region after the hurricane spent their evening hours cleaning up debris and handing out supplies.

Administering Urgent Care to Earthquake Victims

Just weeks after Hurricane Harvey rocked the nation, central Mexico was hit with a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that left 370 people dead and more than 6,000 injured in and around Mexico City. The strong shakes lasted for about 20 seconds, collapsing more than 40 buildings in the process.


  • They Jumped to Action Immediately — According to the Red Cross, some 500 volunteers — many of them nurses — jumped to action in the hours immediately following the disaster. The Mexican Red Cross deployed more than 90 ambulances and several hundred paramedics, who provided life-saving aid within hours.
  • They Cared for Kids and Babies — Among the collapsed and damaged buildings were a series of schools, many of which had children inside. One of the greatest challenges for responders to the Mexican quake was figuring out how to care for the many injured children. Makeshift hospitals were set up, and nurses jumped into action to provide care.
  • They Delivered Babies — In one inspiring tale from the quake, nurses delivered a healthy baby in the middle of the quake in one of the worst affected neighborhoods. While the rest of the hospital evacuated, nurses ushered Jessica Mendoza to a safe place, so she could give birth to a healthy baby boy.

These heartwarming tales are just a glimmer of the heroic work nurses conduct each day. Keep these stories in mind this week as you thank the nurses around you.

Created in coordination with
Deborah Swanson, Content Coordinator,