Deirdre Hamilton (far left) and Laurie Demeule (far right) with Northeastern University College of Engineering internship students Isabella Tang, Yutong Yan, Zhixin (Lulu) Jin, Aaron Parker, Jacob Freed and Priyanka Jalan. Not pictured: student Theresa Franklin.

Laurie Demeule, MSN, RN, CNL, CVRN-BC, and Deirdre “Deedee” Hamilton, BSN, RN, of Procedural Nursing, were hoping to win funding to create a pelvic model to use in nursing education when they participated in PitchFest during Karsh Nursing Scholars Day in May.

They didn’t know it at the time, but Priyanka Jalan, faculty and program manager of Northeastern University’s Enabling Engineering group, was sitting in the audience, thinking about how constructing the model would be a perfect project for students in her summer internship program. Seven weeks later, the result was a far better outcome than Demeule and Hamilton could have imagined.

“We might not have been selected to win PitchFest, but we were rewarded tenfold by having a priceless experience with some amazing young minds,” said Demeule, nursing director for Interventional Radiology. “They created something beyond our expectations.”

A Gap in Education

Demeule and Hamilton wanted to enhance education with a pelvic model that could help staff practice assessing and palpating hematomas at the femoral vascular site. Femoral access, arterial or venous, through the pelvic region can cause hematomas where blood collects and pools under the skin.

“Hematomas can be catastrophic,” said Hamilton, of the Procedural Recovery Unit (PRU). “Although complications are rare, they’re significant when they happen. Minutes and seconds matter when a patient is bleeding out of an artery.”

The ability for staff to practice identifying hematomas is further complicated because they are infrequent, as most cardiac catheterizations are now done through a patient’s wrist.

“It takes practice, and if you see it once every six months, it’s hard to get comfortable with,” said Demeule. “It’s something you really have to feel. This isn’t something you can just explain on PowerPoint. You have to get the feel of how to press.”

An Innovative Partnership

Jalan attended Karsh Nursing Scholars Day at the invitation of Stephanie Pretty, BSN, RN, CCRN, a Brigham cardiovascular nurse and innovator with whom she had previously collaborated. The innovation Demeule and Hamilton described had all the makings of a perfect project for Jalan’s Enabling Engineering internship program, in which high school students design and build tools to empower healthcare professionals.

“We are always looking for ideas and clients to work with,” said Jalan. “I knew right away that this would be a wonderful project for our students.”

The project involves other lines of collaboration, too. Students from Newton High School’s LigerBots team participated as part of an ongoing collaboration between Northeastern University’s Enabling Engineering internship program and New England FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). FIRST aims to inspire the science and technology leaders of tomorrow by facilitating hands-on robotics challenges for young students to solve real-life problems with limited time and resources.

“Our internship program’s collaborations with New England FIRST and Brigham and Women’s Hospital provide inclusive and creative learning environments for students interested in the fields of healthcare and disability,” said Jalan.

Demeule and Hamilton connected with the class weekly to talk through ideas, with students taking notes and drawing diagrams of potential models.

“It was a fun, action-packed seven weeks where the students and I enjoyed brainstorming and innovating on ideas for the project,” said Jalan.

The pelvic model

At the end of the summer, the students presented the final model, which cost just $326.05 to make, and explained in detail how to repair and maintain it. The students used everyday items, such as water balloons, so that parts could be easily replaced if needed.

“They took our ideas and presented something that was even better than we imagined,” said Hamilton.

Waleed Meleis, faculty adviser and founder of Enabling Engineering, praised the successful outcome of the collaboration.

“This is a huge achievement and a great example of how students, clinicians and end users can work together to develop useful devices,” he said.

Jalan agreed. “This collaboration’s success is a huge accomplishment for Enabling Engineering and Northeastern University,” she said. “We look forward to many more successful and creative collaborations with Brigham and Women’s Hospital.”

Fostering such connections is the very heart of Karsh Nursing Scholars Day.

“This incredible collaboration with students and faculty at a local university exemplifies the remarkable impact we can have on nursing, patient care and our broader community when we bring forth innovative ideas,” said Annie Lewis-O’Connor, PhD, NP-BC, MPH, FAAN, nursing director of Research and Innovation in the Center for Nursing Excellence. “This is exactly the kind of work that we hope Karsh Nursing Scholars Day can help to bring about.”

Enhancing Education

Demeule (left) and Hamilton (right)

Demeule and Hamilton are already teaching with the model, including during nursing orientation and trainings with intermediate care units.

“Our nursing demographic is changing, and we have many new nurses who haven’t seen hematoma complications,” said Demeule. “That’s why it’s so important to prepare our nurses so that they can provide the best, safest care to our patients.”

Demeule and Hamilton hope others will be inspired to develop innovative education projects, as well.

“Every nurse has an idea of how to make something better,” said Demeule. “My advice would be to take those ideas and find others who can help make them happen.”