During his day shift at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Anthony Scarpone-Lambert steps into a patient's room. The lights are off, but he knows he has to change the IV without disturbing the patient.

He can turn on the overhead lights or attempt to use some sort of hand-held light.

It's this quandary that he sought to fix by inventing what he and his co-founder call the uNight Light, a wearable light-emitting diode, or LED, that allows nurses to illuminate their workspace without interrupting a patient's sleep. Scarpone-Lambert and his co-founder, Jennifferre Mancillas, say it's a breakthrough for front-line health care workers.

"We really pride ourselves on being very specifically designed for the clinical setting," said Scarpone-Lambert, 21, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing who met Mancillas, 36, in 2019 at a hackathon sponsored by Johnson & Johnson that encouraged nurses to collaborate on solutions to health care problems.

They were able to finance the product, which went through 30 prototypes and iterations, with grants, personal money, funding from startup accelerators and awards, said Mancillas, who works as a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit. Through their startup, Lumify Care, the pair raised about $50,000.

On its face, uNight Light, which retails for $22, may not seem different from other portable lights. However, it has features that distinguish it from others on the market, including different light modes — blue, red and white.

"Your red light can be used to really kind of amplify your main vision," he said. "And it's also less disruptive than bright white light. The white light can be used for dental assessments and … if you need to look at something a little bit more closely."

Red light, which has a long wavelength, can help promote alertness, while blue light, which has a shorter wavelength, tends to do the same while also suppressing melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep, said Mariana G. Figueiro, former director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

A 2019 Thomas Jefferson University study said that 44% of nurses provided care in almost complete darkness most of the time and that hospital lights can negatively affect a patient's circadian rhythm.

For Rebecca Love, president of the Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs and Leaders, uNight Light illustrates the need for nurses to be seen as leaders in health care innovation — a role that she said was often reserved for doctors because of systemic power structures.

More than 400 nurses have tested the uNight Light, and more than 90% said it was helpful, the inventors said. They have received 1,500 orders and will start shipments next month.