I wanted to work on the project I chose because I really wanted to get an idea of what biomedical engineering is like. Also, the possibility of positively impact nursing education and therefore the lives of patients was a big pull for me.
Emily B, Class of 2021
The Duke Center for Nursing Development (CND) trains nurses with real clinical experience to gain confidence in a potential real-world setting. While CND currently uses many physical devices and simulations to train students, some of these devices aren’t completely realistic or practical for long term use. One example of this is plastic arms nurses use to insert intravenous (IV) needles. Nurses need to know where to inject these needles into the veins on a variety of patients. However, on the current model IV arm, needles inserted by previous nurses leave holes which make needle placement obvious for the next set of trainees.
Before jumping into the prototyping phase, the team decided they needed to do as much research as possible on the topic. By speaking to their client and thoroughly understanding the issue, they were able to create a solid base of knowledge from which to prototype.
Once the prototyping phase started, though, the team had to make some serious decisions. The original plan was to make an arm completely from scratch, mixing materials together to create a brand new solution to the project. However, deciding this solution was too complex, the team made a major pivot: they decided using an existing model arm and only changing aspects of the existing product and redesigning certain pieces of it.
The team encountered a fair share of failures along the way. One of the biggest failures was trying to mold liquids which ended up turning to solids over and over again. Emily recounts one time where “the liquid just spilled absolutely all over the table, made a mess, and we had to start from scratch.”
Their FYD mentor, Dr. Saterbak, helped guide them through the many failures. Dr. Saterbak’s constructive criticism and mentorship were helpful in helping the team figure out what they could do better. Moreover, she gave the team the tools necessary to be resilient from mistakes she pointed out.
The final design was an arm for the Duke Nursing School that nurses are able to use to practice drawing blood. The team hollowed out section of an existing model arm, to which they added veins, a human-muscle mimicking material, and more life-like skin. In addition, the skin was designed to be replaceable and varied among 4 different skin tones for a more accurate representation of real-world patients. The arm is now at the nursing school, where nurses can practice training with it for years to come.