Article by Grant Smyth, Marketing and Communications, Flinders University
A life-saving nurse call device developed by researchers from Flinders University and the University of South Australia has scooped a Gold Design Award, President’s Award and Premier’s Award at the Design Institute of Australia Awards on Saturday night.
The device, which incorporates a universal design approach ‘air bulb’ technology, allows people with a range of physical disabilities to call for assistance in a way that isn’t possible with previous nurse-call technologies.
Associate Professor Sandy Walker, who worked on the device in his previous position at the University of South Australia along with Robert White, Daniel Weiss and Dr Peter Schumacher, came up with the idea while sitting on a plane flying to Europe, by basing the innovative assistive device on an easy-to-squeeze “airline carry-on travel tube’. Associate Professor Walker said the awards recognised the significant innovation skills of researchers at Uni SA and Flinders.
“This is a fantastic achievement and one that speaks volumes about the talent we have at Flinders University and the University of South Australia, which is working hard to positively influence the lives of older Australians facing some really difficult challenges,” said Associate Professor Walker.
“The Premier’s Award was won last year by the $200 million SAHMRI building on North Terrace, so although this is a physically much smaller piece of technology, that should put the scale of the actual win into perspective.”
The awards were presented by SA’s Minister for Education and Child Development, Susan Close, on behalf of the Premier of South Australia.
Designed by a team of Flinders University and Uni SA Industrial Designers, the new pendant, which also glows in the dark and provides activation feedback, does away with buttons and hard clips, allowing users to safely and easily summon help by squeezing or pressing it, with any part of the body.
Those are crucial difference which are expected to have a massive impact on its users, particularly the elderly and those with arthritis (up to four million Australians), who already can’t, or may not in the future, be able push buttons.
In addition, it is expected to save aged care facilities – which currently modify existing devices to make them usable – by providing a simple solution to an expensive problem.
The nurse call device was designed in the Hills Innovation Centre for Hills Health Solutions, which is based, along with Associate Professor Sandy Walker, at Flinders University’s Tonsley precinct.
During the design phase, the design team visited aged care homes and worked closely with occupational therapists and rheumatology specialists to find out which methods of activation would work best.
Flinders University is one of Australia’s leading institutions in the development of medical devices through its Medical Device Research Institute (MDRI). For more information on Flinders’ MDRI click here.