Miami nurse invents a better way: The soft arm surgical support (video story included)

Evangeline “Liz” Morton is a registered nurse first assistant at Jackson Memorial Hospital. After 40 years in the operating room, and seeing many different medical and technological advances, she became frustrated about a technique that needed updating.

Morton took it upon herself to make the change by inventing a device she calls the soft arm surgical support. The purpose is to help save time and prevent injury when preparing to operate on patients. It replaces the draw sheet method, which she said is outdated. 

Nurses have long used this technique to wrap the arms of patients to keep them secure and close to the body during operations. Although this method has been used for decades, it sometimes causes nerve damage and other post-operational issues. 

“Since I started in the operating room, the way nurses tuck the patients’ arms is with a sheet,” said Morton. “It works, but the problem is it’s difficult to do by yourself — you need two people. As our patients seem to be increasing in size, it’s more and more difficult to tuck their arms safely without creating injury.”

While the draw sheet method could take up to four minutes to complete, the soft arm surgical support attaches in about a minute. Also, every nurse does the draw sheet method differently, but Morton’s device would allow for a uniform way of wrapping.

“Injury is not uncommon and beyond that, it never fails that after tucking a patients’ arms, something happened with their IV and a nurse would have to wiggle their way under and try to fix it without completely undoing the entire tuck,” said Morton. “I’m so tired of trying to safely tuck arms — time in the [operating room] is really expensive. It’s not an easy thing, and it’s just so stupid that we keep doing the same thing. So, I found a better way.”

After creating several prototypes, Morton attempted to patent her product. “We discovered that a gentleman named Dr. Alex Batta already had a patent for basically the same device in 2012, but it has still never made it to market,” said Morton.

But Morton wasn’t ready to give up on her device.

“I found Dr. Batta and a group of us got together to make a company and arrange a licensing agreement,” said Morton. “Dr. Batta is a retired urologist in Hawaii. He had the opportunity to use our prototype successfully on over 250 patients with no injury.”

Morton and Batta entered the soft arm surgical support in a competition held by Johnson and Johnson. The contest consisted of nurses around the world submitting medical inventions of all kinds, and the winner would receive $100,000 and access to the Johnson and Johnson labs and development assistance.

“We entered and were really proud to advance to the finals,” said Morton. “We really thought that we would win and unfortunately we did not. But we’re still out here trying to get the device to market.”

Christina Hester is a student at Florida International University preparing to graduate with a double major in journalism and philosophy. With a passion for the arts, Hester uses her free time to discover and appreciate the vibrant music, theater and stand-up comedy venues of South Florida. She also enjoys dedicating time to improving her guitar playing, videography and photography skills.