Nurses Create Life-Saving Inventions and You Can Too!

Amanda Ghosh

Amanda Ghosh

Nursing is a beautiful profession if you have a burning desire to change the world and love medicine. Here’s a list of inventions and discoveries made by nurses and students. Each of their contributions has had an astonishing impact. 

A Nurse Invented This!

Color-Coded IV Lines

Sometimes, the most useful inventions aren’t complicated. Nurses Teri Barton-Salinas and Gail Barton-Hay patented color-coded IV lines in 2003. The idea came to Barton-Salinas when she was a labor and delivery nurse. Their goal was to reduce medication errors in time-crunched situations. 

Feeding Tubes for Paralyzed Veterans

Bessie Blount Griffin, an African-American nurse, was a formidable woman. Nicknamed “Wonder Woman,” for her rehabilitation abilities, she created a tube that paralyzed veterans could use with their teeth in the 1940s. The tube allowed patients to bite down and receive liquefied food. She also studied forensic science and became the first African-American woman to work at the Scotland Yard, the London police headquarters. 

The Crash Cart

We store life-saving equipment on a crash cart today, but this wasn’t always the case. Before the crash cart invention, nurses and doctors lost precious time responding to emergencies because they had to find their tools. Anita Dorr invented the crash cart in her basement in 1968 to reduce wasted time during an emergency. 

Diabetic Foot Ulcer Device

Ernesto Holguin, a dialysis center clinical coordinator, created a device to prevent diabetic foot ulcers and prevent infection in existing ulcers. Many diabetic patients cannot effectively see their feet because of arthritis, poor vision, and other ailments. These impediments make the detection of ulcers difficult until they smell. Holguin created a device to inspect, dry, and take pictures of patients’ feet and send that information to their doctors. Holguin’s invention is among the more recent on this list. It gained popularity alongside the iPhone, and he has been perfecting it ever since. He got a patent for the device about two years ago.

Sanitary Pads

Kotex was initially a nurse’s idea. During World War II, nurses and doctors used cellucotton to treat wounds. Cellucotton is five times as absorbent as cotton, and it was more readily available at the time. Nurses began using the material for sanitary pads, and by the end of the war, the idea turned into the commercial sanitary pads for menstrual cycles.

Ostomy Bags

A Danish nurse, Elise Sorensen, invented the ostomy bag. Ostomy surgery reroutes waste to a pouch outside the body through a surgically created stoma. After an operation to treat colon cancer, Elise’s sister wore a tool around her waist that leaked and smelled. Sorensen made a plastic pouch that could adhere to the body in 1954, normalizing life for her sister and other ostomy patients. 


A nurse, Joyce Harrel, created the TRAYBL. The invention enables healthcare professionals to attach a table to any pole. TRAYBLE is a helpful attachment for IV poles because it provides an extra surface for tools.

A Student Discovered/Invented This!

If you have a great idea, get started. You don’t have to be a working nurse to invent something useful. The inventions below were all made by students, and some weren’t even in the medical field. 


Heparin, an anticoagulant that prevents blood clots from forming, was first discovered in 1916 by Jay McLean, a second-year medical student at Johns Hopkins and William Henry Howell. The first clinical trials using heparin occurred in 1935. Shortly after that, heparin was considered safe for clinical use and made into an anticoagulant drug. 


ASHA is a medical device invented by students to assess vital signs in babies. Designed by students at the Umeå Institute of Design in Sweden, ASHA is a solar-powered digital scale with a built-in infrared thermometer and a personal weighing blanket. Measurements are documented on the blanket. The device was designed to help Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) care for babies in rural India. ASHAs are part of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 


Sir Frederick G. Banting, Charles H. Best, and JJR Macleod discovered insulin at the University of Toronto in 1921. James Collip purified insulin after an unsuccessful injection into a fourteen-year-old patient. The diluted version was successful. It erased the patient’s glycosuria and has been used to treat diabetes ever since. 


Stericell is a solution to medical procedures performed during natural disasters and in conflict-ridden areas. The small box is a portable off-grid sterilization system that disinfects medical equipment without the need for water. The Stericell uses a fuel cell to power ultraviolet light that works with an antimicrobial technology twice as strong as chlorine. Stericell was designed by Oliver Evans of the Northumbria School of Design.

Don’t Hold Back…Discover…Invent!

Nursing students are well-positioned to change the world. If you are burning with a passion for inventing a life-changing device, don’t hold back. The planet needs your solutions. Students and nurses have always made some of the most significant medical discoveries and inventions. Will you be the next student to make a difference? 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Recent Articles


See our catalog today!
New courses!