Caregivers everywhere can recount stories of the overly intense atmosphere of an operating room during surgery. Most of the time, they’ll tell you it has everything to do with the incredible focus and precision of surgeons to keep the patient out of harm’s way. But Jill Byrne, RN, MSN, knows there’s a bit more to it than this.
Jill has always been hyperaware of when beads of sweat started forming on the surgeon’s brow. This was always a distinct warning sign that the intensity was ratcheting up. The need for absolute silence would be soon requested, and demands from support staff were about to get a little more curt. And more often than not, Jill knew this had little to do with a surgery going in an unplanned direction. More simply, the surgeon’s body temperature was rising.
“It’s as simple as that,” said Jill. “Combine intense concern for a patient with bright lights and layers of unbreathable material, and caregivers are going to get a little uncomfortable.”
When discomfort takes hold, agitation and unwanted perspiration soon follows. Anyone who has taken a final exam can attest that these conditions can cause things to spiral. Many might argue that sweat and tears comes with the surgery territory, but Jill saw an opportunity to take the temperature down a few notches.
In 2010, Jill decided to come up with her own solution. After hours of work in her home and numerous iterations, the “Cooling Vest” was born. A surgeon agreed to give it a shot and it became a staple in his operating room, and soon the entire floor. Caregivers were reporting much more pleasant cases and recounting stories of typically tense surgeons singing along to show tunes during surgery, all due to the Cooling Vest. Before she knew it she was fielding inquiries from industry.
“I remember the president of a large device company seeking me out during a live surgery to ask about the vest,” said Jill. “I was aware pretty quickly that I had stumbled onto something that could improve the comfort of surgeons beyond Cleveland Clinic.”
Being careful not to disclose any proprietary details about the vest, Jill was soon working with a team at Cleveland Clinic Innovations to protect and seek out commercial opportunities for the novel vest.
Jill isn’t new to innovation. While this is her first patent application, she admits that she’s always had a knack for identifying problems and taking the steps to fix them. At the Clinic, she’s worked for years on new ways to shore up scheduling and streamline new patient assessments. She even remembers as a kid sending letters to companies to tell them how to make their products better. (Cartoons on children’s bandages were her idea!).
And Jill isn’t done yet. Working with CCI has not only allowed her to see her invention come to life in a marketable form, but it’s also informed and inspired her way of innovating.
“I now know that there are more people that can benefit from a solution than just my team or my patients,” said Jill. “The way I see it, I can either wait for an innovation to one day solve my problem, or I can solve it myself. And if it works, I can make an impact bigger than myself.”