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Orthotics and Prosthetics teams will make 6,000 face shields for frontline staff

Thursday, April 23, 2020

In early March, Gundersen occupational therapist Nathan Jordan's primary responsibility was helping patients by fitting and adjusting their wheelchairs.

Today, he's one of dozens of staff members redeployed to an assignment to equip our frontline staff with gear that will shield them from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

"This wasn't in my job description," Nathan says. "This wasn't on the radar."

As COVID-19 tore around the globe, demand for the equipment healthcare workers need to stay safe exceeded supply.

There weren't enough face shields for the Orthotics and Prosthetics staff members tending to patients in the Hospital, where they're now required.

two team members making face shields

"We saw a shield and said, 'Well, we can make those,'" says John Barteck, lead orthotist.

With the support of Rachel Albrecht, administrative director, the team reached out to vendors for the raw materials needed to assemble face shields.

"We thought we were going to make a few here and there for everybody in the department. But then Rachel said, 'Well, how many can you make?' and I said, 'Well, I don't know. We haven't made any yet' and she said, 'Well, can you make a couple thousand?'" John shares.

With the flexibility, steadfastness and tireless dedication our organization has shown in the face of the pandemic, the answer was yes.

Staff mobilized and volunteered in assembly-line format to produce 1,156 face shields in just two days.

"We put out a feeler for people who wanted to volunteer with this project, and I think all of the slots were full within about five minutes. People want to work and people want to help out," John says.

Nathan adds: "One thing I've noticed is how many departments are volunteering and giving up supplies and time and people. Like the standard office staples broke easy, so we needed heavy duty staples. I went around to departments on the La Crosse Campus and all these people just gave up their staples and staplers without knowing what we were working on because I wasn't able to tell them at the time because we didn't want to alarm them that there was a shortage. I was just amazed at how much people were just like, 'Yeah, have it, take it, keep doing what you're doing.' Our employees are amazing."

The team aims to construct 6,000 face shields for Gundersen's frontline staff fighting COVID-19 in all the communities it serves.

"This project is an example of the innovative nature and resilience of our team," Rachel says. "The way people were able to come together to get this ready to go quickly and efficiently is just a testament to the dedication and passion of our team to help in any way they can."

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