A Nurse Call System Becomes Turing Complete

George Mallory, a famous English mountaineer, once suggested that it was of no use to climb mountains. Instead, he posited, the only reason to climb a mountain is because it is there. Likewise, when you become an expert in nurse call systems like those found in hospitals, you may find that you do things with them that are of similar use. Making a Turing-complete nurse call system is something you do because you can.

[Erik] has been working on this particular call system, known as Netrix, and used Wireshark to sniff out all of its protocols. With this information he realized that it would be possible to use the system’s routing features to perform all of the tasks that any Turing complete system can do: conditional branching and memory access. He set up a virtual machine and set about implementing all of these tasks using the nurse call system’s features.

The setup for this project is impressive, and belies an extensive knowledge of this one proprietary system but also of computer science in general. It’s interesting to see how something can be formed into a working computer system from parts that otherwise might not be used that way. Even things that aren’t electronic can be used as Turing-complete computers.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

DIY Vein Finder Shows you Where to Stick It

Everyone who’s donated blood, gotten an intravenous (IV) line put in, or has taken a blood test knows that little bit of anxiety before the needle goes in. Will this be a one stick operation, or will the phlebotomist do their impression of drilling for oil while trying to find a vein? Some of us are blessed with easy to find blood vessels. Others end up walking out looking like they’ve been in a fight with a needle.

[Alex’s] wife girlfriend is a nurse who’s had trouble finding veins in the past. [Alex] is an automotive engineer by trade, more acquainted with oil lines than veins and arteries. While he couldn’t help her himself, [Alex] designed this 3D printed vein finder to help his wife girlfriend out at work. He started by studying devices on the market. Products like Veinlite use LEDs to illuminate the skin. Essentially these products are a string of LEDs and a battery. They are patented, FDA approved, and will set you back between $188 and $549 USD. [Alex] and his wife girlfriend couldn’t afford that kind of cost, so he built his own. Continue reading “DIY Vein Finder Shows you Where to Stick It”

Nurses Create in a Medical Makerspace

Although there are many skilled and dedicated types of health care professionals, nurses are often the main point of contact between the medical establishment and a patient. You will probably spend more time with your nurse–especially in a hospital setting–than any other health care provider. Every patient’s needs are different, so it isn’t surprising that nurses sometimes improvise unique solutions to help their patients be more comfortable or recover faster.

That’s the idea guiding an innovative program called MakerNurse–an initiative backed by MIT and the Robert W. Johnson Foundation. The idea is to encourage nurses to be makers. One of the project’s cofounders, Anna Young, had found nurses in Central America making do with what they had on hand and naturally acting as makers. “We saw a nurse repair a stethoscope diaphragm with an overhead transparency,” she said. Young noted that often nurses didn’t realize the significance of their making–it was just how they got through the day.

Continue reading “Nurses Create in a Medical Makerspace”