Innovation

Solutions: Creative Care

Using wood and other materials, a nurse invents new ways to help elderly patients


By Christine Hall | August 1, 2017

An ongoing challenge for geriatric nurses is identifying the full scope of a patient’s capabilities.

Colleen James, a geriatric nurse at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB), says that when she enters a patient’s room, a flood of questions races through her head: Is the patient hard of hearing? Does the patient wear glasses? Does the patient use a cane? Is the patient on bedrest? Does the patient have trouble swallowing? Does the patient need help getting out of bed and to the bathroom? Does the patient have dementia?

To help answer these questions, James designed a sign that can be mounted on the side of a patient’s headboard.

Colleen James models an activity apron that she designed with her nursing students to help patients with cognitive impairment.

The wooden sign includes a series of simple symbols that a nurse can circle to indicate the patient’s capabilities and needs. That way, every caregiver who understands the symbols on the board gains access to critical information in a matter of seconds.

“What I tell my students is that we need to think about how we interact with patients,” James said. “They could have dementia or delirium, but with the board, I will know at an immediate glance what I’m working with.”

At UTMB Health, James coordinates the Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE) program, a national program designed to help hospitals raise the level of care for older adults through nurses and other staff. One of her main goals is to help her young students feel more comfortable with elderly patients.

“I work with nursing students to help them learn how to work with geriatrics—to show them that it is a good area to go into,” James said.

Older Americans are living longer, which means that more medical personnel—nurses, doctors and others—are needed to treat the 65-and-older population.

“In general, the country is way behind on preparing enough geriatricians for today’s older population, much less that of tomorrow,” said Robert Roush, Ed.D., M.P.H., a professor of geriatric medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Texas Consortium for Geriatrics Education and Care.

In addition, a nursing shortage looms. Although nursing is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 1.2 million nursing job vacancies will arise by 2022.

James is doing her part to bridge the divide between young nurses and elderly patients. She and her students log a lot of hours in the MakerHealth Space at UTMB, where staffers are encouraged to tinker with different materials—everything from zippers and buttons to 3-D printers—to find solutions to on-the-job problems. This is where James built the wooden board.

The space is outfitted with hammers, pliers, cutters and wrenches of all sizes, lined up neatly in rows along the wall. Washers, nails, screws and bolts are organized by size in a bin with several small pull-out drawers. Bigger pieces of equipment are scattered throughout the space.

For a recent project, James and her students sewed zippers, hooks, buttons and bracelets onto over-thehead aprons that patients can take home from the hospital. The aprons are designed to help patients with cognitive impairment—memory loss, confusion or trouble concentrating—due to illness, medication or dementia. Interacting with the different elements on the apron helps stimulate the brain and boost self-esteem.

“We use this as a volunteer opportunity,” James said. “The students are always looking for volunteer hours, and this is something that is also a value add for patients.”

James is now working with Andrew Maxwell-Parish, manager of the space, to create a prototype for a waist apron. They are also collaborating on items for the apron that James considers “guy stuff,” such as fidget toys, nuts and bolts.

The interactive aprons give younger nurses and elderly patients a point of contact.

“It’s a great tool to have the students engaged in a population that I think is underserved,” James said.




Social Posts

profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is @USArmy Veteran Julius J. Siefing https://t.co/zyN1IHSJ7R #WorldWarII

2 mins ago
profile_image

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VeteransAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Julius J. Siefing. Julius served from 1942 to 1945 during World War II, attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant.Julius described his experiences in the Army in an interview with the Veterans History Project. He was born on October 14, 1921 in New Weston, Ohio. He was drafted into the Army at the age of 22, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Julius completed basic training at Camp Wolters, Texas before completing additional training in California and Hawaii. He was assigned to an infantry division and sailed to Australia in 1942.Julius and his unit also traveled to New Guinea where they carried food rations from ships and through ten miles of jungle to other soldiers. After securing an airport from the Japanese to allow Army Air Corps planes to land, the unit participated in a raid on Leyte Island in the Philippines. Julius watched as American planes bombed the island before the infantry was ordered to raid the beach. After a nearby dynamite explosion, Julius helped to carry wounded soldiers out of the jungle.Julius also served in Mindanao and Mindoro islands in the Philippines. He was tasked with clearing booby traps and protecting natives from enemy attack. Because of the constant combative surroundings, he was rarely able to rest, attend church or write. While on a mission in the Philippines, a soldier next to Julius lost his arm in an explosion. Julius was able to stop the bleeding and help him to a vehicle. He later learned the soldier was taken to a hospital and survived his injuries.Julius left the military in 1945 with three Bronze Stars. He returned to Ohio and worked as a school bus driver for 43 years while raising his family.Julius passed away on Jan. 23, 2016 in Coldwater, Ohio at the age of 94.We honor his service.

7 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

#HPV-related tonsil cancer survivor: “If you can prevent your child from having cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?” #CancerMoonshot #endcancer https://t.co/Htyhk9bXjD

7 mins ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

Diabetes study of Asian Indians by UTHealth nurse researcher highlighted in @AmDiabetesAssn Scientific Sessions: https://t.co/lqwcr7xGvi

13 mins ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

Alarming number of women not receiving prenatal care: https://t.co/PQjVoQoAXw via @houstonchron

14 mins ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

"My work serves as just a short interlude in a long period of struggle in the stories of hospitalized families – stories filled with hope." Audrey McKim shares her personal journey helping families as a child life activity coordinator at #TexasChildrens: https://t.co/ICdwf4Tuod

18 mins ago
profile_image

UTHealth

@UTHealth

How cool is this? The new Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth building signage is up! Learn more about Jane and Robert Cizik's landmark gift to the school: https://t.co/JxhEu6k8XG #CizikNursing https://t.co/veREkcNse9

22 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

World War II veteran talks life, love and service in Chesapeake https://t.co/n48131c9YH via @WTKR3

22 mins ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

Dr. Matthew Sewell, @MethodistHosp dermatologist, will answer your questions about skin cancer risk factors & treatment in a live Facebook video event on 7.25 at 2 p.m. Send in your questions & we will do our best to get them all answered for you. https://t.co/X4DlPJsofi https://t.co/Gg9F0OecK0

51 mins ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

houstonmethodist

Dr. Matthew Sewell, dermatologist at Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital, will answer your questions about keeping your skin healthy, skin cancer risk factors and treatment, when to see a doctor about skin changes, and more. Join us on 7.25 at 2 p.m. for this skin health live video event. Feel free to send in your questions for Dr. Sewell & we will do our best to get them all answered for you.

55 mins ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

RT @RiceBizWisdom: As a NASA contractor, Constance Adams designed spaceship interiors for solar system travelers. After a terminal cancer d…

1 hour ago
profile_image

Memorial Hermann

MemorialHermann

At just 23 weeks pregnant, Stephanie gave birth to micro-preemie twins—a boy and a girl.“Gage and Sadie were so tiny, so perfect, so beautiful, yet so sick,” she said.Read their NICU story: http://spr.ly/6182Dqbj2.

1 hour ago
profile_image

Memorial Hermann

@memorialhermann

At just 23 weeks, Stephanie gave birth to micro-preemie twins—a boy and a girl.“Gage and Sadie were so tiny, so perfect, so beautiful, yet so sick,” she said.Read their NICU story: https://t.co/TWsfKYPfpx.

1 hour ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Remains of Korean War Veteran arrive in Houston https://t.co/FfWAFaJ18D via @KHOU

1 hour ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Cancer treatment can be very painful physically and mentally. Adding a trained therapy dog to this stressful environment can increase a patient’s energy level and decrease any discomfort or anxiety: https://t.co/2qeTb9WWK7 #texaschildrens https://t.co/jy7PiYGMeY

1 hour ago