New lab allows St. Luke's staff to create healthcare inventions right inside the hospital

The generate @ St. Luke's innovation lab opened in the hospital on Nov. 21, 2019. (MARY...
The generate @ St. Luke's innovation lab opened in the hospital on Nov. 21, 2019. (MARY GREEN/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Nov. 21, 2019 at 8:51 PM CST
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St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids opened its new generate @ St. Luke’s innovation lab on Thursday, which the hospital believes will transform its healthcare.

The lab is the first of its kind in the Midwest and the third in the country.

If hospital staff have an idea that they think can help their care, they can brainstorm with a product engineer, then build their product with 3D printers, laser cutters, and other technology.

“Staff and nurses from all over the hospital and clinics and come to bring their creations to life,” St. Luke’s Nursing Research & Innovation Coordinator Rose Hedges said.

Prior to the permanent lab opening, Hedges ran a similar operation through pop-up labs in empty rooms at the hospital.

Through that, staff members created nearly 60 different projects, 11 of which are currently used at St. Luke’s and its clinics.

Some of the inventions are high-tech, such as the microphone sensor system created by nurse Christina Ross for wound vacs, a type of medical device she works with. The invention lets nurses know when the system pressure is low.

“It will send a text message to the charge nurse’s cell phone and alert them that the device is alarming so that it can be troubleshooted more rapidly,” Ross said.

Other inventions aid with adaptability, even when patients get out of the hospital, such as a modular hand tool to help a paralyzed patient put on her mascara.

Coe College senior Cooper Dodd is part of a team researching the use of virtual reality for pain management.

He and his colleagues created a silicone mask for the VR headset in the lab because the standard fabric mask is hard to clean, making it difficult to use in a hospital setting.

“It resists disease, viruses, to clean it easily, just make it as easy as possible,” Dodd said of the silicone mask.

Hedges said the lab has the hospital changing the way it thinks about healthcare.

“As a nurse, I’m able to give you medications and lots of many things, but now, I can go down to the innovation lab and create a hand splint that’s custom just for you because I know it’s going to benefit you,” she said.

The innovation lab is a partnership between St. Luke’s and MakerHealth, a Boston-based hospital maker space company.

The lab is paid for through an estate gift of more than half a million dollars left to the hospital by former St. Luke’s nurse Viola Reth, who died in 2017.

In addition to the lab at St. Luke’s Hospital, there will also be two smaller, satellite labs at Witwer Children’s Therapy in Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha.