“Innovation implies something new:
Something new implies there must be space available- an open mind. For me this occurs while walking the dog, in the shower, first waking up.
Something new implies an understanding of the old. Something new implies connecting the dots in a novel way.
Innovation implies a solution to a problem.
The problem must be seen and felt.
Change must be desired.
Methods to find a solution are needed: For OT this is functional analysis! What a great fit!”
– Jayne Knowlton
I met Jayne at AOTA and was immediately drawn to her enthusiasm. Her energy is contagious and amongst the 300+ exhibitors at the conference, her booth demanded my attention. I consider Jayne to be an innovator, she found a problem and made it her mission to solve it. As a result of her perseverance, we have the AquaEve. The first urinal designed specifically for women.
After 28 years of experience in orthopedics and hospital care. Jayne became frustrated with the idea of the bedpan being the only viable option for a bedridden woman. Therefore, she set out to create the AquaEve. A urinal designed to fit the needs of the female anatomy without the mess or hassle caused by a bedpan. The moment Jayne explained her creation to me I thought to myself “duh!” why hasn’t this been done before. It is something so simple, yet so functional. Turns out no one had taken the time to consider the challenges faced by women having to use a bedpan. It works yes, but does it lead to the best quality of life possible?
This is a question that OTs ask themselves on a daily basis. When dealing with individuals from all walks of life, one must ask what would be the best fit for them. Occupational therapists should not approach life with a one size fits all approach, rather I invite you to dare to innovate. After all, being an innovator is at the core of the occupational therapy profession. Find an obstacle, analyze the problem, solve it, and make life easier to be lived!
During the weeks following AOTA I have had the opportunity to chat with Jayne, and find out more about her creative process, her background, and what led her to design the AquaEve.
Tell us about your career path. What types of settings have you worked in?
I started out wherever I could get a job in the town I was in- a hospital. When we moved, I found a position at a Hand Therapy clinic. I worked and studied hard and became a CHT. When we moved back to Rochester, I took the OT clinic chief position at Genesee Hospital. When Genny closed, I opened my own Hand therapy clinic. Then the referral sources dried up just about the time I was thinking- I climbed to the height of clinic practice (in my mind at the time- CHT) , and the height of management… Now what could be more? I went to Strong Memorial Hospital and have been there for 9 years. What’s next was not answered until I committed to bringing AquaEve to women in need.
What led you to develop the AquaEve?
Thinking of what my professional life could mean. Kind of a professional mid-life crisis. Is this all there is? I keep saving one star fish at a time? Is this what my life is to be? These thoughts were in my head as I continued to walk into patient rooms. Women distressed over waiting for a bedpan, while a man in the very next room is content with a urinal at his side. The very problem I had which introduced me to therapy, still existed. The connections clicked. This is my problem to solve.
What is the AquaEve?
AquaEve is the result of 3 years of trial and error. Many trials, and many errors. AquaEve is a urinal very specially designed to work with bed bound women.
What was the design process like?
I first teamed with biomedical engineers. I thought I needed engineers to figure out the physics and mechanics. I then created my own mock ups, tried them out, re-adjusted and tried again. How long did it take? 3 years and still running.
Did you ever feel like giving up? Sure, the time and money is WAY over what I planned. People would say “don’t tell anyone your ideas, they may take it “and I would respond, “fantastic, they can have it and get it to market, that would be a relief!” But really the answer is no. This is my legacy. I will not stop until women, as a routine standard of care have the option of a urinal. I truly believe even if someone took my idea, they would not have designed AquaEve. There are other female urinals on the market. No one else did a functional analysis like the OT in me did. No one else felt a deep knowing that this was meant to be, and just had to find the solution.
What is the first thing an inventor should consider?
It’s not easy. A flash of insight is the spark, yes. A very important start. But to get a roaring fire, there must be resources to burn, fresh oxygen and insights, and an attentive attendant making sure the resources are in their right place, in their right mix and not getting out of control.
What advice do you have for an occupational therapist who is thinking about developing their own product?
Reach out and find help. Your local university will have a technology transfer office that can guide you. Local incubators are a gold mine. Maker clubs are on the rise. Call me! The worst advice I got was to keep my idea a secret. Trust your OT methods. Then decide: Is this a product that has mass appeal? Do you want to invest your resources or license your idea to someone who can do the work and share the profit (which is a long way off)?
The AquaEve can be purchased on Amazon. For bulk orders contact Jayne @ firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the AquaEve make sure to visit http://www.evensol.biz