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Napa's Queen of the Valley staffers make face shields to help protect coworkers
Healthcare

Napa's Queen of the Valley staffers make face shields to help protect coworkers

From the Complete coronavirus coverage from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan series

Talk about thinking outside the box.

Facing a growing shortage of face shields worn by health care workers while treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of Queen of the Valley staffers decided to take matters into their own hands.

The group of about eight staffers made more than 879 of the clear plastic face shields from off-the-shelf supplies found at Home Depot, Michael’s and Tap Plastics, among other vendors.

“Our goal as therapist is to do whatever we can to make a situation better,” so if making face shields is what needs to be done, “that’s what needs to be done,” said Mike Smith, manager of the physical therapy department at Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

“We’re doing something worthwhile,” he said. “Something that will help protect our nurses and other front-line staff,” in addition to the community.

Smith explained that caregivers wear face shields over face masks while treating patients to protect against flying respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes that can transmit coronavirus.

Queen of the Valley currently has a sufficient supply of face shields, the hospital said. In fact, California’s Office of Emergency Services delivered approximately 5,000 face shields to Queen of the Valley on March 31. However, to prepare in the event the hospital begins to run low, the team of physical therapists decided to construct their own.

On April 1 and 2, the team members at Queen of the Valley assembled hundreds of the face shields using off-the-shelf materials: marine-grade vinyl, industrial tape, foam and elastic.

Some supplies were purchased at craft stores like Michael’s as well as Home Depot. Others were purchased in bulk from regional supply chains.

He isn’t regular Michael’s shopper, admitted Smith. “I’m not a real crafty guy. That’s not my go-to place.”

The team used a prototype developed by Providence St. Joseph Health caregivers in Renton, Washington, who assembled hundreds of face shields for Seattle-area hospitals in March. They have enough raw materials on hand to make hundreds more and plan to keep fabricating as long as they can, said a Queen news release.

Each shield is about 11 by 12 inches and weighs just a few ounces. The materials to make each shield probably costs less than $1 each, Smith said.

The team, led by Smith, and Jim Casciani, a retired engineer who worked for Nellcor Puritan Bennett (a medical products company with product lines in respiratory care, etc.) worked in an assembly line fashion in a large conference room in Queen of the Valley’s Wellness Center.

Because many patients are subject to the shelter-at-home order, the group temporarily has less physical therapy work to do.

“We’re not really good at just sitting around and twiddling our thumbs,” said Smith. “They want to do something to help, (and) I needed to find something to keep them busy.”

“I ran it up the chain (at the Queen), and they said ‘Go for it,’” said Smith. “We just got to work making these face shields.”

Each disposable shield is made with a piece of clear plastic or vinyl for in front of the face, a strip of foam so it rests against the forehead comfortably, and strip of elastic around the back of the head to hold it in place.

“Our supply chain team was able to procure and coordinate delivery of the supplies, and we set up a mini-factory where we could assemble the shields while still keeping within the social distancing recommendations.”

After they were produced, the face shields were inspected and approved by hospital infection prevention specialists and clinical leaders.

“These face shields will safely protect our caregivers, so they can effectively care for our patients and communities,” said Gianna Peralta, infection prevention manager at the Queen.

In addition to constructing face shields, St. Joseph Health hospitals have been working to conserve other forms of personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks. Examples include: shifting resources within the Providence St. Joseph Health family of organizations to areas where the need is greatest; accepting donations of new and unused N95 masks or surgical masks and more.

“During this unprecedented time, we are pursuing different avenues to augment and conserve our supplies so that we can meet the critical need and support our frontline staff,” said Amy Herold, chief medical officer at the Queen.

“The health and safety of patients and caregivers are our top priorities. Supply conservation measures are an important step in safeguarding care teams and the people we serve,” said Herold.

After helping make hundreds of the shields, dozens were boxed up to be mailed to other Providence St. Joseph Health facilities. “Made with love by Queen of the Valley caregivers,” read a label on the boxes.

Of course, while the face shields are made to be used, at the same time, “I hope we won’t need them,” Smith said.

Editor’s note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to all online readers. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit napavalleyregister.com/members/join/.

You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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