When nursing students are practicing taking a patient’s blood for glucose testing, they have to practice with other students. This opened the door for shaky, nervous hands to make mistakes on a real finger. However, the release of the new SAFinger Glucose Testing Simulation Kit, developed by Dr. David Zamierowski and nursing professor Kathy Carver, will soon change the entire process for nursing students.
SAFinger is a plastic, finger-shaped object that gives the same feel as human flesh so students can get an idea about the pressure they need to apply when drawing blood from that area to test for glucose. The finger can be put on another person or on a manikin, depending on how the students need to be able to use it. The middle section of the finger is hollow to allow for a fake blood concoction to be inserted and later drawn out with a needle.
For the past decade, Zamierowski and Carver have spent hours and hours working together to develop technology that gives them the ability to create products like SAFinger that give nursing students a more realistic way of learning how to handle things like injections without having to use an actual person.
“[SAFinger] is an amazing example of entrepreneurship and innovation, coupled with community partnership and philanthropy,” said Kate Allen, associate vice president of Institutional Advancement in Government Affairs. “They come together in this product. So it’s the first time something like this has happened on our campus, which is really exciting.”
In August 2012, Zamierowski and Carver got a patent that allowed them to create a number of training devices for medical students. The two decided to donate the patent to the college’s foundation so that the college could sell SAFinger and use the money to help fund scholarships or other improvements.
“This is something that typically larger research universities would do,” Allen said. “We are doing it all on our own, using our own resources here and our own team here. And the patent actually has multiple products within it, so it’s possible that this is just the first in a line of products that we could just try to commercialize and create for the benefit of the students.”
At first, the foundation thought about selling the product. After further consideration, though, they realized they could make more money over a longer period of time by selling the product themselves. The foundation created JC3 Innovations to help produce SAFinger.
JC3 Innovations had to take the necessary steps to create a legitimate business for SAFinger, which led them to the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at the college.
Jack Harwell, small business advisor at KSBDC, started on the SAFinger project last year. At first, it was a simple consultation to tell the college where to go with the invention. After some time, though, Harwell saw an opportunity for other parts of the college to get involved.
“We needed some marketing help and so the idea was thrown out to involve the students,” Harwell said. “So I took that and ran with it. I formed a steering committee to figure out how we could do that … Then we figured out what did we need that the students could do for us and one of the main things was developing the packaging artwork.”
Nancy Schneider Wilson, professor of graphic design, took on the SAFinger project with Harvey and three of her students. They collaborated on designing things like the artwork, the logo, the name and various other aspects of the SAFinger project.
“The students had to do a lot of brainstorming, a lot of sketching, they did a lot of research looking up other like products,” Schneider Wilson said. “Then they had to do a lot of like products once we chose the direction.”
Harvey also got the business and marketing departments at the college involved in the project. The business school looked over contracts for SAFinger and advised them of things to change. JC3 Innovations reached out to hippo*, a Kansas City-based marketing firm, in order to gain helpful advice from professionals.
Carver, Harwell and representatives from hippo first visited with potential distributors and settled on Pocket Nurse in Pennsylvania. When meeting with Pocket Nurse, they conducted focus groups with other nursing educators to find out how to market SAFinger in a way that would appeal to them.
“Through our conversations with the nurse educators, there was overwhelming feedback that the technology the SAFinger provides is not currently available, and greatly needed in the simulation environment,” said Mary Patonai, account supervisor at hippo.
Students at the college also got to work with hippo to help create the name, logo design, package design and branding for SAFinger. While students may not have have created SAFinger themselves, they have played a huge role in the marketing and designing of the rest of the product.
“I had the opportunity to not only work with our internal team to coordinate project goals, team and timelines, but also to work closely with the JCCC students as they learned about the product and designed the packaging and go-to-market materials,” Patonai said.
The project wrapped up in February, and Carver is planning to take SAFinger to an international nursing conference in Washington D.C. in June, where they will start selling the product to other nursing educators across the country. Carver, however, is most excited for her students to have the opportunity to use SAFinger.
“My hope is in the fall when we can buy them, now that we’re going to produce them, that we’re going to be able to actually bring them in and have the students using them when they’re in their simulation clinical days here,” Carver said. “So the intent is that we’ll be putting this in use as soon as we get it. I’ll be one of my first customers.”
*hippo is the name of the marketing firm, uncapitalized
JCAV-TV captured the process behind the creation of the SAFinger.