BayCare Team Members Make Personal Protection Equipment for Health Care Workers

April 04, 2020

For some BayCare team members, sewing was never in their job description. 

But, when coronavirus began to spread, they put their sewing skills to use to help protect the lives of those at the front lines.    

A group of creative team members, led by longtime nurse Susan Milliken, have set up shop at BayCare’s system office making personal protection equipment for health care workers. 

“We’ve come together to make surgical masks and face shields for our colleagues who are working tirelessly at our hospitals,” said Milliken, who is the director of nursing systems and resources for BayCare’s west region. “We want to provide nurses, physicians and clinical staff with an extra layer of security as they put their lives at risk to care for others.”   

In true BayCare fashion, they’ve formed a seamless assembly line in two different rooms cutting, sewing, boxing and distributing thousands of masks and hundreds of face shields across the system.  

“We first cut the material, ties and wires,” said Milliken. “We, then, move the material to different stations, each including two sewers and a non-sewer. The first sewer takes two ply of the material and makes three seams, then they hand it off to the non-sewer who inserts the wire and turns it inside out. The mask then moves to the second sewer who completes the sewing and sends it to the next person for boxing.”

The team has made more than 2,700 masks so far. All of them are made with surgical material that’s reviewed and approved by BayCare’s infectious disease team. Prior to mass distribution, masks were also tested for quality, style and fit. Staff is now able to safely use these masks in non-COVID-19 areas across the hospitals.

With shortages and demand at an all-time high nationwide, the mask production is helping meet the supply need for personal protection equipment across the system. 

“We’re incredibly proud to use every resource at our disposal to make masks for our health care workers,” said Nishant Anand, MD, chief medical officer at BayCare. “We want everyone to be safe and comfortable. So, we’re thankful to our teams who are bringing their talents and expertise, that’s typically not needed in a hospital environment, to help in a time of crisis.” 

BayCare is also making face shields, which is an essential piece of personal protection equipment. The team is using purchased material such as foam plastic and elastic bands to create the product. The team has produced hundreds so far, and they are continuing to make more as material comes in. Dr. Anand said BayCare also is exploring making surgical isolation gowns, which would be another important addition to personal protection equipment supply.  

“As an emergency medicine physician, we know that it’s not just us by ourselves,” said Dr. Anand. “The worst thing is when you feel like you’re alone, and help is not coming. We have an army of people who are trying to make sure we have everything we need to protect our health and well-being.”  

In this time of crisis, the community and local businesses have helped provide thousands of cloth masks and other protective material. Their donations are being dispersed across the system, making a huge difference. “We’re so touched by the outpouring love and support we’ve received from everyone in the community. We’re forever grateful,” said Milliken, as she got emotional.  

“We want to thank our community who have shown incredible support during this time of need,” said Dr. Anand. “This goes to show that we’re not alone, and we’re going to get through this together.”