High acuity and intensive care unit physiotherapist Jennifer Orr
Written by Elaine O'Connor, Senior Communications Consultant

Looking to take your innovative health care idea from concept to creation? Read how one Nursing Innovation Grant team are overcoming obstacles and collaborating to develop a new patient rehabilitation walker. Your idea could be next!

How do you turn a doodle into a medical device?

Ask Royal Columbian Hospital’s Jennifer Orr. The high acuity and intensive care unit physiotherapist had been dreaming for years of a piece of equipment to streamline her work and help get weak patients up walking and rehabilitating their muscles – often with pounds of critical equipment still attached to them and with multiple nurses in tow. 

So together with Royal Columbian Hospital Clinical Resource Nurse Louise Schricker, Orr submitted an idea for an all-in-one device called a J-Walker. The device could be fitted with poles and equipment attachments and a flip-down chair to ensure even frail patients could get up and moving sooner, and with less disruption to staff. Their project was one of four selected from 40 submissions as winners of the first Nursing Innovation Grants at Fraser Health. 

“The evidence shows early mobilization is vitally important to patient outcomes,” Orr explained. “Yet trying to get people up doing physiotherapy takes a lot of people to manage the equipment: IV poles, feeding tube, ventilator, and five nurses to get one person up. Over time I thought, why isn’t there something better? It shouldn’t be that hard to build something, trial it, and modify it for this population.”

The pair are now in the thick of the design and prototype phase of their project, and they’ve learned innovation isn’t achieved without some perspiration. Orr started making calls, contacting a relative who worked as a welder to get quotes and searched online for a walker she could re-purpose.

“I thought, 'how do we actually do this?' But then we went to our first meeting with the Innovation team, they had [connected with] the Biomedical team and Engineering and all these resources which were part of the Nursing Innovation Grant and we [were relieved] because we didn’t know how we were going to do all of it. There is so much engineering and physics involved because we have to make sure that with the seat and the IV poles and the patient, that the J-Walker doesn’t tip.”

“Employees like Jennifer and Louise are bringing brand new ideas to health care,” said Rafael McRaven, innovation lead with Fraser Health’s Innovation, Planning and Transformation Team.

“We’re seeing that these lead to more than just incremental improvements for patients, but a real a leap forward in care.”

“My team’s role is to make the innovation journey as easy and successful as possible,” McRaven explained. “Usually, that involves connecting staff to the right people, providing resources, and coaching.”

The wraparound support has helped the pair push their project forward. Orr expects to have a base model walker secured this month and a full-scale model ready before the end of the year. Ultimately, they hope to bid the prototype out to an engineering firm or a university engineering lab team to build a working model for testing.

To date, Orr said, working on her innovation has been a positive process.

“Staying organized is important,” she said. “I fit it in between patients on the days that I can. I would really encourage other people to apply to the grants and to be passionate about their ideas. Because nursing and allied health care staff work with patients day in and day out...we are the ones who know what they need, how things actually work and what works best.”

Anevent for Nursing Innovation Grant winners, executives and clinical leaders is being planned for 2019. This event aims to help leaders across Fraser Health learn how to champion the implementation of grant projects and find ways to sustain them within their area of practice.

Read the first article on Orr and Schricker’s Nursing Innovation Grant experience.

Get updates on Nursing Innovation Grant winners.

For updates on other Innovation Grant winners and their projects, visit Fraser Health’s Sparking Innovation Hub.


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