Richmond VA’s AT team shields staff from COVID-19 - Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center - Richmond, VA
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Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center - Richmond, VA

 

Richmond VA’s AT team shields staff from COVID-19

face shields

One of the three prototypes of a laser cut face shield sits on a table awaiting testing. The Assistive Technology team produced more than 1,080 face shields using rapid manufacturing technologies for front-line staff to help prepare them with personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19. Photo credit: Jason Miller: Visual Information Specialist

By Megan Kon
Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Emergency room staff in hospitals across America are often the front lines for possible infection as soon as the sliding doors swing open. The Central Virginia VA Health Care System (CVHCS) saw an opportunity to help its staff better fight the risks of infection. Staff teamed up with the facility’s Assistive Technology team to create supplemental personal protective equipment to battle COVID-19.

The four-person Assistive Technology (AT) team designed three face shield prototypes tested by staff in the emergency department for fit and function.

“3-D printed masks and 3-D printed face shields have been the most widespread ‘DIY’ personal protective equipment products made by health care groups and others in response to COVID,” said Brian Burkhardt, clinical rehabilitation engineer.

Although most supplemental face shields around the country were being produced by 3-D printers, the CVHCS team had a better idea.

“Locally, we identified face shields as something we could produce quickly and in the most quantity,” Burkhardt said. “Early in the design process we felt that laser cutting the entire design, not just the clear face shield, was the only way to mass produce this product in the quantities required by VA nationally.”

Burkhardt along with fellow engineers, John Miller and Seth Hills, teamed up to produce what they felt was the best option for fast, safe production to meet the demand nationally.

face shield parts

Seth Hill, a clinical rehabilitation engineer, shaves and shapes parts for face shields to get them ready for front line staff use. The Assistive Technology team produced more than 1,080 face shields using rapid manufacturing technologies for front-line staff to help prepare them with personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19. Photo credit: Jason Miller: Visual Information Specialist

“The emergency department tested prototypes of the most popular designs online – foam based and 3-D – in addition to our laser cut design,” Burkhardt said. “Front line staff preferred the laser cut design because it is nonporous and cleanable, and we could produce the laser cut version much more quickly.”

The AT team supplied more than 1,080 face shields to front-line staff at their facility, and they’ve now moved on to fulfilling an order for 5,000 more for the VA’s Central Distribution Center, located in Hines, Illinois.

“In addition to the face shields, we’ve made two intubation boxes for the emergency department and two for Anesthesiology,” said Melissa Oliver, Assistive Technology Program Coordinator. “We feel that it is our responsibility to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. We are grateful to the medical providers on the front line, and this is how we can contribute to their success.”

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie has indicated that if state governors requests assistance, VA stands ready to respond.

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