The world faces many complicated healthcare problems that modern medicine has not been able to solve. One team of Clemson students is seeking to make a difference. Led by Dr. Nancy Meehan in the School of Nursing, students in the Nursing/Engineering Collaboration to Solve Current Healthcare Problems Creative Inquiry project use cutting-edge technology to create solutions to address healthcare issues. To do so, students take advantage of technology, such as computer-aided design (CAD) and additive manufacturing, to construct and test prototype solutions.
After the team uses CAD to conceptualize their ideas, they go to The Watt Family Innovation Center’s Student Makerspace to render three-dimensional (3D) prints, making their ideas into objects. To test their prototypes, the nursing students use the Clinical Learning and Research Center, a modern healthcare clinic setting that allows students and practitioners to test potential solutions in a realistic, clinical environment.
Sarah Clopeck, a junior nursing major, loves the ability to be creative. “It’s a way to make nursing students innovative. That way, when they go out into the field, they can use their skills and overcome problems when they face them,” Clopeck says. Some nursing students really enjoy the exposure to 3D printing. The regular use of the Makerspace by nursing students builds what might once have been unlikely collaborations between engineering and nursing students. The collaboration with engineering majors helps the team take a more interdisciplinary approach to addressing real-world problems.
The team is creating healthcare solutions for real people. For example, an assisted palliative care patient was suffering from tubes pulling on her skin. To relieve the patient’s discomfort, the Creative Inquiry team created a specialty vest to keep the tubing confined and from irritating her. The team also created trunk holders in the Makerspace to safely and securely transport oxygen tanks.
The inventions made in this Creative Inquiry project can assist doctors in overcoming complicated health issues, but these students are also providing a positive experience to patients by their heartfelt contributions. “The fact that Clemson University students wanted to help make their [patients’] lives better was phenomenal. It improved their healthcare just because somebody tried to do something for them,” Meehan said.