Micron team members in Boise designed and built dozens of patient shields to help protect medical staff who are treating patients sick with COVID-19 at area hospitals. “It gives me pride to see the Central Shops jump right in and start running with this — and some other personal protective equipment (PPE) items we are making using 3D printing,” said Manufacturing Central Team Shops Manager Bryan Roberts, who led the team that came up with two prototypes for the shield 24 hours after first presented with the general concept.
The transparent boxes have a number of names, including “physician protection boxes” and “intubation shields.” They are used for patients who are intubated, which means they have breathing tubes inserted into their throats so that a ventilator can pump air with extra oxygen into their lungs.
Intubation can be a high-risk procedure for doctors because it may expose them to droplets and aerosols from the patient’s airway. The shields cover the patient’s head and upper body, so they help prevent transmission of the coronavirus.
Micron’s Central Shops is a place where all kinds of things get built, fabricated, repaired and repurposed.
“We’ve always referred to ourselves as the “One-Stop Shop” because of our group’s experience, diversity and ability to deliver high-quality and low-cost solutions to our customers’ bench, design, machining and repurpose needs,” said Roberts, who joined Micron a little over 25 years ago.
The intubation shield project started after Boise team member Brad Baxter, a technician in Fab 4 PCVD Operations, saw a TV news program about how Chicago doctors were putting plastic covers over patients for more protection. He pitched the idea via email to Scott DeBoer, executive vice president of the Technology and Products Group.
“I don't know how realistic it would be for us/Micron, but it could be an opportunity to help out our community before things get too bad,” Baxter wrote in the April 1 email.
DeBoer set things in motion.
“Scott said he liked the idea also and started adding people to the email to get the project rolling,” Baxter recalled. “Once all the proper people were involved, the suggestion seemed to take off like wildfire.”
Heather Baldwin, vice president of Global Indirect Procurement, Workplace Facilities, Real Estate & Corporate Aviation, reached out to local hospitals.
“I am the liaison with St. Luke’s, and so I coordinated with them to get their folks looking at the idea and then helping get the right paperwork in place so that they could test it,” Baldwin said.
Micron’s offer to make patient shields was welcomed by St. Luke’s hospital teams that are focused on infection prevention, employee safety and anesthesia, said Jessica Sloan, director of Value Analysis in Supply Chain at St. Luke’s Health System.
“There were some different versions of a protective devices being used in various departments throughout the system,” Sloan said. “But these generous donations are going to provide all areas seeing patients needing intubations with safety devices that create a barrier to protect staff.”
St. Luke’s clinical teams were provided with three different intubation box sizes, and they provided feedback to the Micron team. The larger ones worked well in the operating room and intensive care unit, while the medium ones worked well on gurneys in the emergency department.
They asked for some alterations: shorten a pillow lip and folding piece, and add washers to the handles to reduce tension at those points.
The shields are made from polycarbonate, a very strong, light-weight plastic. Roughly 10 pieces are bonded together to build each box, and the whole construction takes about five hours, Roberts said. Each one costs about $400 to make.
The Micron Plastics Shop team received kudos for their efforts in the NStar Global Services’s newsletter. The team includes contract workers employed by NStar.West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell is also using the Micron-made patient shields.
“Your version is still larger than the other box we were trialing that has since fallen apart,” a West Valley staff member told Bryan and others via email. “Your version is better engineered by far, and there is still plenty of room for movement inside the box. After asking several times, anesthesia (staff) still doesn’t have any suggestions for improvement at this time.”
St. Luke’s has asked for 30 large shields and 15 medium shields. West Valley has requested 10 medium shields.
“It has really been a team effort from several different people to pull this all together, and I really feel like we are contributing to possibly saving lives,” Roberts said. “I’m proud to be working for Micron — and proud of all the different ways they have stepped forward to help communities and employees, all while keeping safety a No. 1 priority.”
The "Heart of Micron" story series shares human stories about Micron team members helping others and benefiting their communities.