By Megan Murdock Krischke
“The nurses I work with are the smartest, funniest people I know. Our work causes us to problem-solve and to think critically about everything, and that leads us to coming up with solutions in every aspect of our lives. It just fits that we would be inventors,” remarked Stacey Tatroe, RN, BSN, inventor of RN I.D. Scrubs.
Fellow nurse entrepreneur Sarah Mott, RN, agrees. “My colleagues and I were always making little inventions to provide patient care--like things to elevate a leg or to make an IV work. But we weren’t thinking about these as inventions. That is why I wanted to encourage other nurses to pursue their inventions and to bring their products to market.”
Mott has recently started her own company, Nurse Born. Her vision is to market products created by nurses that are inspired by practical experience.
“I want to encourage nurses to think about the needs of their colleagues and patients and then to pursue their ideas,” said Mott. “As the company grow, I would like to hire nurses who, because of an injury, can no longer tolerate long hours on the floor.”
Mott’s own work-related injury is part of the story of how she became a nurse inventor and a business owner.
“It has been a very long road. It started when I was working as a staff nurse on a post-op ortho floor. My neck was bothering me and I was uncomfortable with the stethoscope hanging on my neck. It also bothered me to keep an item that carried so many germs so close to my face. I was looking for an alternative way to carry it and I couldn’t find anything, and I thought someone should invent something,” she explained.
A few months later, her injury had progressed to the point that she had to take some time off work. At home and bored, she started experimenting with household items to create a stethoscope clip. Once she assembled a workable clip, she began pursuing a patent and was accepted into a free program where a local university student helped her apply for it. An engineer acquaintance of hers was willing to create a prototype.
In due time, her Stethoscope Holster became a reality, and is now the first product to be marketed through Nurse Born.
Mott says her biggest challenge so far is just getting the word out about her product.
“My experience as a nurse has helped me in my new career as an entrepreneur. I learned to be more confident and to trust my own judgment,” she stated. “Nursing helps you develop good instincts about people because you are constantly interacting with different kinds of people and personalities.”
Along the path of bringing her product to market, Mott was mentored by members of a local small business association as well as other nurse inventors she found through online research. She would love to provide that same kind of support to other nurse inventors and encourages them to contact her.
Tatroe is one of the inventors who mentored Mott.
Tatroe works as an ER nurse at Wellstar Health Systems in Atlanta, Ga., and fell into the role of nurse entrepreneur through a different route.
After working as an LPN for six years, she had completed her RN licensure and wanted to celebrate.
“For work that day, I hand-made scrubs that said RN and wore a sash and a crown!” she said. “What was so interesting was that colleagues I had worked with for years were surprised to find out that I wasn’t already an RN. Even though our licensure is written on our IDs, clearly no one was reading that. But they saw it when it was written on my scrubs.”
“It is frustrating for patients when they don’t know who is walking into your room. Some hospitals use a color-coding system, and that can be helpful for the staff, but the code often remains unclear to patients, family members and providers who don’t work at the facility. I.D. Scrubs communicate to the patient, ‘I am your nurse. I am the one who is here to take care of you and answer your questions.’”
Tatroe agrees with Mott that marketing can be the most challenging part of inventing a product and getting it off the ground.
“Every time I am at a trade show or show another nurse these scrubs, they love them and they ‘get it’ immediately. The challenge is getting the word out and letting nurses know that I.D. Scrubs are available,” she remarked. “I hope we will be able to expand the line to include IDs for all scrub-wearing clinicians and staff.”
Tatroe urges other nurses to pursue their ideas.
“Go for it!” she said. “You will never know unless you try. Think of all the innovations in history--what if those inventors hadn’t given it a go? You have to put yourself out there and work for it. Nothing comes easy or free.”