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NMU, UPHS-Marquette work to improve patient, staff safety

A UPHS-Marquette worker assists a “patient.” (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — Numerous groups within the community have rallied in support of UPHS-Marquette during COVID-19 pandemic, a hospital press release states.

Northern Michigan University is one of those which is utilizing its resources to supply UPHS with medical equipment. NMU donated two drying ovens and has developed acrylic canopies that can reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“I think this cohesive response is truly awesome,” said Jen Laurin, the sterile processing manager at UPHS- Marquette. “Now is the time for us to commit to each other, not just in words about being U.P. strong, but to also show it, and we are.

“With the support of NMU and other surrounding facilities, we are doing just that. I am proud to be a part of this community. Truly grateful for NMU’s contributions to UPHS.”

The ovens assist in the reuse of N95 masks. Once the medical-grade masks are used, they’re placed inside an oven where they are properly sterilized so that they can be reused.

“Precisely controlled temperatures have been demonstrated to effectively decontaminate these masks without significant loss of filtration efficiency, but it requires an oven with distinct technical specifications,” said NMU Professor Brandon Canfield. “I happened to have one such oven in my research lab, as did Professor Tom Getman. We both wanted to loan them to the hospital.”

NMU Human-Centered Design Professor Peter Pless also saw an opportunity for his department to assist UPHS-Marquette. Through a collaboration with UPHS Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Scott Hagle, the two led a team from NMU, UPHS-Marquette and the community. The group developed and built acrylic hoods that cover patients being intubated in the emergency department and elsewhere, helping prevent the spread of disease.

“Dr. Hagle explained to me that even though patients may be sedated, they can still have a cough reflex that disperses particles into the air and onto surfaces,” Pless said. “The system we’re making is like a shield that protects patients and those doing the intubation procedure. It also uses medical suction to pull away the air underneath the hood so other patients and staff members are not exposed to potentially contaminated air.”

Dr. Hagle and Professor Pless began working together in late March. Following an initial phone conversation and meeting, they developed a prototype that was used and evaluated by the UPHS-Marquette Emergency Department. The feedback allowed them to fine-tune the design. Over just a few short weeks they have assembled a team that has produced 21 hoods with assistance from NMU School of Art and Design colleague, Jason Schneider, and Daric Christian, associate dean and director.

Andrea Wrubel, NMU executive secretary, cut drapes that will cover the access ports and assisted with assembly. Sara Hagle fabricated 90 pounds of weighted fabric belts that will be placed over the patient for a better seal, allowing dangerous aerosols to be suctioned away from the patient and medical providers. Guy Schuil and Bea Schuil, working with Greg Kerwin, an ED RN from UPHS – Marquette, are designing graphic instructions and other information that will be distributed with each unit.

“It’s amazing to see our community and our various interests and abilities come together in such a short time to help us protect patients and staff during such difficult times,” Hagle and Pless said. “We are honored to work with such dedicated professionals. It’s a true testament to the spirit of the U.P. and our community.”

Several of the intubation hoods have already been distributed within UPHS-Marquette and to other U.P. hospitals, with further sharing in the works. Since finishing the hoods, Pless and Hagle have not slowed down.

The team is now looking at how the design can be modified to help anesthesiology, cardiology, and EMS providers. They are talking with medical professionals in Ann Arbor and Minneapolis to help offer them protection as well. The team is also offering free access to plans at the request of any other hospital.

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