With supply chain issues and other problems stemming from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Bayhealth is using creativity and innovation through 3D printing to fill some of the gaps and provide unique solutions. Bayhealth Clinical Engineering Technician III Peter West has designed and 3D printed several different products, including face shields and parts for respiratory life-saving equipment, which have benefited hospital care teams in the fight against COVID-19.
One device West is currently in the process of perfecting is a valve that allows clinicians to adjust positive end-expiratory pressure, also known as PEEP, to aid patients in respiratory distress from COVID-19. Another is a ventilator circuit splitter to allow two patients to safely be treated with one ventilator, in the unlikely event that a patient surge causes a ventilator deficit. When Respiratory Therapy Manager Rachael Ali-Permell, RRT, was notified that filters for their manual resuscitator bags may become unavailable, she looked for an alternative and found a filter that was similar in function, but too large. West worked with her to come up with a solution. He designed and 3D printed a filter adapter which enabled the larger size filter to fit to the resuscitator bags, ensuring safe filtration. When possible, West follows 3D printing patterns, such as one from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website for producing face shields. Often, however, he must utilize his experience and expertise to customize the prototypes he prints after working with clinical staff to ensure they’re perfected to fit the specific needs of patients.
“3D printing is all about figuring out simple and inexpensive ways to problem-solve,” said West. He got his start in Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining through classes at a community college, where he’s also a Career and Technical Advisor to other students pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. West then got hooked on 3D printing when it first entered the technology scene. Since joining Bayhealth last year and prior to the pandemic, West custom-designed and 3D printed many other products that help protect equipment and create efficiencies in the hospitals’ various units. With COVID-19 now bringing greater attention to the capabilities of 3D printing for healthcare solutions, West has been busier than ever.
Compared to his experiences in clinical engineering departments at other healthcare systems, West said he’s impressed by how Bayhealth embraces a culture of out-of-the-box thinking and workplace empowerment that allows for new ideas and positive change. “Here in Clinical Engineering, our extensive career backgrounds and interests come together to create a formidable team to solve problems that no one else can or wants to do,” said West. “I’m appreciative that Bayhealth leadership, all the way to the top, allows the liberty to innovate, create and solve problems, and recognizes that this can also save money and time and benefit the greater good.”