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Stories: GM Nameplate

Protection for caregivers with a personal touch

Like you, Brad Root heard the stories: nurses and doctors, desperate for face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that are in short supply nationally while they treat patients stricken with COVID-19. “Nurses around the country were taking it upon themselves to make their own face shields,” Brad says. “I thought, ‘We can do that for them.’”

Brad is the president of Seattle-based GM Nameplate, a custom fabricator of parts and devices for health care, automotive and aerospace manufacturers. (That little molded plastic panel above your airplane seat with the fan and flight attendant call button? Chances are, the crew at GMN made it.) So spinning up a new product line is nothing new for him. The speed with which he pulled off this particular project, though, was.

It began on March 19, with a call to Swedish. The Root family and GMN have been dedicated supporters of ours for nearly three decades, so Brad didn’t have to think long about who to partner with. “If you get sick in Seattle, you go to Swedish,” he says. “You know you’re going to be well taken care of.”

Less than 24 hours after offering to make a donation of custom PPE, Brad showed up at our Swedish First Hill campus with four face shield prototypes of different sizes that would not only offer nurses an additional layer of protection as they treat patients with COVID-19, but also allow them to reuse face masks that are already in short supply. With the feedback he got he was able to go back to GMN’s facility, refine the design and produce a handful of new prototypes that same day for our nurses to test out over the weekend.

“The feedback we got was that these were far and above what we could find elsewhere,” says Stacia Rivera, Swedish’s director of the environment of care, emergency management and security. “Our nurses are more protected, safer and more secure in the care that they’ll give our patients.”

Once that final round of testing was done, the GMN team was able to make a few final tweaks and ramp up production on a run of 500 pieces, which Brad personally delivered on March 26—just one week after the idea was born.

From concept to manufacturing, a highly complex new medical product could take more than three years to complete. In this case, though, Brad knew time was at a premium. (It also didn’t hurt that he was able to shift his aerospace products team—currently without much work—to face shield production.) “When we saw the need to create something like this, I knew we had to be smart about it and cut through the red tape,” he says. “We took a simple product and got it out there quickly.”

The speed with which GMN was able to design and manufacture the face shields was impressive. But given the lack of PPE available right now, it was only part of what made this generous gift so important to our caregivers. “With some of our overseas sources, delivery can be a 50-50 proposition,” Stacia says. “Maybe we’ll be able to get the product, maybe we won’t. So knowing that these were a solid product, being made right down the street was invaluable.”

Inspired by GM Nameplate’s gift? You can strengthen our response to COVID-19 in many ways, including making a cash gift, donating medical supplies and food for our caregivers or volunteering your time. Visit www.swedishfoundation.org/covid-19 for more information.