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Mothers of Invention: California RNs Debut Color-Tinted IV Lines

Nurse comforting patient in hospital bed

[caption id="attachment_" align="alignright" width="195"] Sisters Terri Barton-Salinas, RN, left, and Gail Barton-Hay, RN, were granted a patent in 2003.[/caption]

As a nurse with more than 30 years of experience, Terri Barton-Salinas, RN, realizes the potential for medication errors, especially when patients have multiple IV lines.

"There can be hazards in using clear, indistinguishable intravenous lines," Barton-Salinas said. "Like many nurses, I used to utilize color masking tape to differentiate the IV lines, but the tape often became snagged on the bed linens. I thought, if only IV lines came in different colors, it would make the process so much easier."

A labor and delivery nurse in Vallejo, Calif., Barton-Salinas shared her idea with her sister, Gail Barton-Hay, RN, over dinner one night, and the two decided to contact a patent attorney to see if they could make their concept of colored IV lines and corresponding colored labels a reality. They were granted a patent for ColorSafe IV lines in 2003.

According to the Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative, approximately 7,000 people die each year due to medication errors in hospitals. Although errors can happen during every step of the medication process, experts say, they occur most frequently during the prescription and administration stages. According to the Institute of Medicine, on average, a hospital patient can expect to be subjected to at least one medication error each day.

"Even one error is one too many and can put the patient?s life at risk," said Barton-Hay, who works as an OR nurse at the Monterey Peninsula Surgery Center in Monterey, Calif. "Instead of having to deal with a pile of confusing clear tubing, ColorSafe IV lines allow nurses to accurately, quickly and safely identify the patient?s IV lines. In emergency situations, when seconds count, this can make a profound difference in the outcome."

Like a lot of new inventors with great ideas, Barton-Salinas and her sister were unsure how to proceed with getting their invention into the hands of hospital staff.

[caption id="attachment_" align="alignright" width="195"] Terri Barton-Salinas, RN, left, and sister Gail Barton-Hay, RN, display their ColorSafe IV lines at a trade show.[/caption]

"We attended trade shows and received a great response from nurses," Barton-Hay said. "Yet when we tried contacting manufacturers through email and phone calls, we got nowhere."

The sisters heard about the Sawyer Center at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College, part of the Small Business Development Center, which provides no-cost, professional counseling in business planning, loans and capital acquisition, marketing, taxes and bookkeeping, and other areas of small business operation.

"The coordinator of the center, Steve Schneider, really liked our idea and connected us with Royce Brooks of Creative Safety Solutions, who has a company that develops and markets medical safety products," Barton-Salinas said.

Brooks agreed to work with the sisters on a contingency basis and help them take their idea one step further. With his connections, the sisters reached a deal with IV device maker Codan US Corp. to manufacture the lines in five standard colors: red, green, orange, blue and purple. They include matching color labels for IV bags.

"Royce helped us bring our idea to fruition," Barton-Hay said. "We found you can have a great idea, but it?s hard to get your foot in the door. It?s also hard to launch a company when we both have full-time jobs. Royce has a staff that is helping us to get our product in front of the right people."

The color-tinted IV lines are awaiting color approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The sisters, who are working to get the infusion-pump manufacturers on board with the idea, anticipate having the colored lines ready for a market launch this summer.

In the interim, the two have received a good response at the medical convention and trade shows they have attended to promote their product. They also hope to bring some of their other ideas to the marketplace.

"We have a list of other things that we hope to release soon including an error-proof feeding tube," Barton-Hay said. "It?s exciting to brainstorm product ideas that we know will make things easier and safer for our colleagues and patients."

For more information on the ColorSafe IV lines, visit