Necessity is the mother of invention.
With surgical masks and N95 masks in high demand, Sarah Bush Lincoln Sterile Processing and Surgical Services staff members developed a way to turn sterile wrap material into protective masks.
Sterile Processing Manager Sheri Oakley, RN, developed the idea with her mother, a long-time seamstress and quilter. Through trial and error, they designed a method to cut the materials to get the most out of the supply.
Staff members brought in their sewing machines and fabric cutters and began an assembly line of cutting, sewing, turning material right side out, creating pleats and attaching the ties. After they are completed, the masks are run through the sterilization process and the tiny holes in the material shrink and form a tight seal making the masks perfectly safe to wear.
Oakley explained that the loose weave material is used in the sterilization process to cover all the instruments in the final steps of cleaning them. When hit with the high heat, the tiny holes in the material close forming a tight seal. “That’s what makes this material perfect to use for these masks,” she said.
“The team has really responded to this challenge to help Sarah Bush Lincoln protect our staff and patients by making these masks. We’re hoping to make about 160 masks a day, and that provides masks for one or two entrances of our facilities for a day and relieves some of the pressure on the tight supply of masks,” Oakley added.
Unfortunately, other seamstresses cannot take the wrap home to make masks for SBL because once the material leaves the Health Center, it cannot return to Sterile Processing to be sterilized because of cross contamination issues.
Pictured left to right is: Leigh Cheney, Kandy Donahue, Janet Burner, Wendy Specker, Sheri Oakley and Teresa Russell.