Nurses make it happen: Invent pattern, assemble volunteers, crank out disposable and washable gowns

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Elliot ICU nurse Heidi Kukla, right,  decided to take the need for vital PPE into her own hands. She and other volunteers are now working around the clock in a making-marathon of protective gowns she designed. Courtesy Photo

MANCHESTER, NH — Personal protective equipment or PPE has been in been in short supply in New Hampshire and across the country.  While Elliot Hospital and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, both part of Solution Health, have been managing supplies and orders in advance of the surge, isolation gowns have been of particular concern. With a mix of talent and innovative spirit, some inspired nurses at Elliot Hospital took on the challenge of enhancing supplies.

Registered nurse Heidi Kukla, who works in the Intensive Care Unit at Elliot developed a pattern for a disposable, detachable gown. Working with colleagues who volunteered their time, Kukla developed prototypes that went to Infection Prevention staff for testing and review.

A socially-distant but unified volunteer crew has taken over AR Workshop on Elm Street to make the gowns. Courtesy Photo

Once the teams landed on a design and material that met the necessary clinical standards, Kukla reached out to fellow ICU nurse, Stephanie Joyce who had a strong connection at AR Workshop on Elm Street in Manchester. Joyce helped AR owner Laura McKelligan set up the shop, which has been closed because of the “stay at home” order issued by Gov. Chris Sununu. McKelligan was more than happy to open her doors and transformed the crafting workshop into a gown-making shop. SolutionHealth purchased materials for the group to create more gowns to be used at Elliot Hospital and Southern New Hampshire Health, and McKelligan was able to bring back some of her staff to help.

“Stephanie asked if the space was being used, and I told her they were more than welcome. One day turned into a weekend, and now we are planning for the whole week,” McKelligan said on Monday.

Kukla says the disposable gowns will cost less than 25 cents/each and the washable gowns will cost about $10/each. She says volunteer labor was key to keeping costs down. The group spend the weekend cranking out gowns at the AR Workshop and will continue to do so this week.

About Elliot Health System, a member of SolutionHealth

Elliot Health System is a non-profit organization serving the healthcare needs of the community since 1890. The largest provider of comprehensive healthcare services in Southern New Hampshire, Elliot Hospital, a 296-bed acute care facility and the first community hospital in the state, serves as the cornerstone of the health system. Elliot is home to Manchester’s designated Regional Trauma Center, Elliot Breast Health Center, Elliot Urgent Care, a Level 3 Newborn Intensive Care Unit, Elliot Medical Group, Elliot Regional Cancer Center, Elliot Senior Health Center, Visiting Nurse Association of Manchester and Southern New Hampshire, 1-Day Surgery Center, Elliot Memory & Mobility Center, NH Arthritis Center, Elliot Retail Pharmacy, Elliot Medical Centers in Bedford, Londonderry, Hooksett, and The Elliot at River’s Edge.

About SolutionHealth

SolutionHealth is a highly coordinated, regional health care network founded by Elliot Health System and Southern New Hampshire Health. Its purpose is to better serve the health care needs and interests of southern New Hampshire as a region by improving and increasing access, quality, value, and community benefits.

Editor’s Note: The original story has been edited to correct information about ownership of AR Workshop.