Mask assembly line
COVID-19 Einstein Untold: Unsung Heroes and Unknown Stories

Hospital-Made Face Shields, Designed by Three Crafty Kids

By on 03/27/2020
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One in an ongoing series

When the Emergency Department at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia faced a potential shortage of face shields, a group of employees was asked to come up with an alternative until a new shipment came in.

J.P. McFadden immediately knew whom to consult: his three children, ages 11, 10 and 7. 

Seamus, Carly and Ruairi McFadden, who are home from school because of the COVID-19 outbreak, are always working on craft projects.

“We have a craft table in the basement. Whenever I come home, my kids have a new craft and there are always beads or paint all over the house,” said McFadden, Director of Construction for Einstein Healthcare Network. “I knew I had the right team.”

J. T. McFadden with masks
J. T. McFadden

The family, including McFadden’s wife, Katie, set to work, guided by a picture of a commercial face shield and a photo of people making impromptu versions in Seattle. “They were all excited,” McFadden said of his children, “and very helpful after being a little stir crazy.”

After an evening of experimentation, the McFaddens created a prototype made of pool noodles, elastic stretch headbands, clear cellophane paper and – of course – duct tape. McFadden brought the model to work the next day.

(Left to right)  Seamus, Riuairi and Carly McFadden with some of the face shields they made
(Left to right) Seamus, Riuairi and Carly McFadden

“He brought a bag with arts and crafts materials,” said Sherry Driscoll, office manager for the Facilities Department. “I thought it was great. Everybody laughed.”

A few modifications were made. There was a dash for supplies to Staples, CVS and the dollar store. And then 10 employees in the department’s maintenance division created an assembly line around a large table in the carpentry shop and began producing the shields. By the end of day one, they’d made and distributed 200 to the ED.

Dr. Ryan Overberger was grateful.

“I had a chance to look at a prototype and it seemed as good or better than the stuff you get commercially,” said Dr. Overberger, an emergency medicine physician and medical director for the Hospital Emergency Response Team.

Face shields are used to protect the eyes of healthcare workers. Their previous use was restricted to patients with certain contagious diseases.

These days, because of the risk of COVID-19, they’re used with every patient who comes into the emergency room, along with masks, Dr. Overberger said.

He was especially grateful for the homemade version because he was notified that the anticipated delivery of 5,000 face shields was reduced to 500. “The supply chain is really disrupted and this is a great example of ingenuity,” he said.

The production line has continued to create the shields, laminating the clear back cover of three-ringed report folders as the see-through shield; a portion of pool noodle as the forehead cushion; and stretch headbands to hold them in place. And every day, more volunteers work the assembly line.

Craig Sieving, Vice President of Facilities Management, who’d relayed the original request for substitute face shields to his department, said he was “extremely proud” of their response. “Their dedication and creativity were inspiring to see during these difficult times,” he said.

McFadden has been at Einstein for five years, developing and managing all the network’s construction work – needless to say, nothing like the face mask project.

In fact, the only similar experience McFadden has ever had was being required, as an undergraduate engineering student at Bucknell University, to create a device that allowed a raw egg to survive a two-story fall, uncracked. His didn’t. But then he didn’t have the option at the time to consult with Seamus, Carly and Ruairi.

“They were very proud of the work they did,” McFadden said. “It’s exciting for them to have had a hand in helping me and helping Einstein.

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1 Comment
  1. Reply

    Michelle Buckman

    04/10/2020

    We live in the community near Einstein hospital on Ridge in Montgomery County. How can we help support the doctors, nurses and all hospital workers at Einstein throughout this crisis? Can we help make more masks? We can’t sew but we are crafty. We actually have kits and can make all natural soap. Can we drop off donuts or bagels? Anything you need – please let us know how we can volunteer. We appreciate you all!

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Perspectives highlights the expertise and services provided by the physicians, specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers at Einstein Healthcare Network. Through this blog, we share information about new treatments and technologies, top-tier clinical teams and the day-to-day interactions that reinforce our commitment to delivering quality care with compassion. Here, you will also find practical advice for championing your health and wellness. The Einstein Healthcare Network "Terms of Use" apply to all content on this blog.