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Inspired by Patients, Invented by Nurses

Inspired by Patients, Invented by Nurses


June 08, 2008

6) The Embo-Optics fluid illuminator:

Drip. Drip. Drip. Before Joanie O’Donnell, RN, CNRN, worked as a stroke nurse, she monitored the fluids that were used during interventional neuroradiology procedures. While procedures lasted anywhere from four to eight hours, one of the hardest parts of her job was to make sure fluids infused appropriately.

“At the foot of the patient bed, we’d monitor the drip chambers on the IV bags. Sometimes we’d have six bags infusing at once,” says O’Donnell. “The bags would be behind each other, and the room would be darkened. It got to be a patient safety issue.”

O’Donnell says that fluids infused too quickly could pose their own hazards to the patient, while those infused too slowly had the potential to cause blood clots and strokes. Seeing the fluid flowing for these patients was essential. Then O’Donnell started to brainstorm.

“First, I got an egg crate and perched a flashlight so that it illuminated the drip chambers,” she says. “Now, everyone could see the drips, and I could mix medications and others could monitor the patient.” Still, it wasn’t enough.

She went home and started sketching. A sketch became a draft, and the draft became an invention. O’Donnell developed the first Embo-Optics model — a multi-hook device that illuminates the fluid chambers of IV solutions. But even she had no idea what she had done.

“A famous interventionalist visited our department and later called me and said, ‘You have no idea what you’ve created.’ He encouraged me to patent it immediately,” says O’Donnell.

Those were the old days. Today, O’Donnell has a patent, a business partner, and a product that is quickly selling itself with spin-off versions for other clinical areas (100 have been purchased by hospitals so far). “We have a single and double model for patient rooms, recovery rooms, and even a battery-operated version for CAT scan suites,” says O’Donnell, who is still amazed at the product of her frustration.


“I just wanted to improve patient care. I didn’t set out to do this,” says O’Donnell, whose company is now above the break-even line and climbing into the black. “It’s different now. I subscribe to nursing journals, but I also subscribe to Money.”

Invented by Joanie O’Donnell, RN, CNRN

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