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Crisis Spurs Innovation at Kaiser Permanente

Facing a shortage of face shields for nurses and doctors, Kaiser Permanente converted a carpentry shop into a factory to make its own. Pictured above, Kaiser Permanente cabinet maker Ismael Soto puts face shields in an oven to mold them into place.

When Paula Dickson got a message from a senior leader asking if her Kaiser Permanente carpenters could fabricate and produce a face shield to protect Northern California clinicians on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, she didn’t hesitate.

Supplies of the critically important piece of protective gear were running low and hard to find on the market. Her 16 Berkeley-based carpenters were used to making all kinds of furniture and cabinetry in hospitals and medical offices across the region, so the director of Capital Projects, Facilities and Construction, thought “why not face shields?”

“When I got the message, I talked to my shop supervisor, Adrian Robles, and told him what we needed,” Dickson said. “Three times he said, ‘What did you say?’ He was off work, but in an hour, he had bought the supplies, made one, and showed me a prototype.”

A couple of days later 2 versions, 1 developed by Robles and 1 developed by Area Construction Manager Ed Walera, were brought to the command center and approved by a nurse and a physician.

In the first 2 weeks, the Berkeley carpenters and others they trained delivered 11,800 face shields that went into immediate use. Now teams of 4 to 8 are developing their own in each of Kaiser Permanente’s 15 service areas.

Kaiser Permanente Cabinet Maker David Li, foreground, puts together disposable face shields for Northern California clinicians at a carpentry shop in Berkeley. (Photo by Doug Oakley)

Kaiser Permanente Cabinet Maker David Li, foreground, puts together disposable face shields for Northern California clinicians at a carpentry shop in Berkeley.  (Photo by Doug Oakley)
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Kaiser Permanente Cabinet Maker David Li, foreground, puts together disposable face shields for Northern California clinicians at a carpentry shop in Berkeley. (Photo by Doug Oakley)

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This Post Has 48 Comments
  1. Wonderful, shows you what ingenuity the people at Kaiser have in times of crisis. I worked for 23 years with Kaiser and want to send kudos for this great story. Using what you already have to meet such a need to protect the front lines in this war, is truly amazing. Make sure people in government see how this is done! We are all the more safer for hearing that the front lines are protected.

  2. This story should be in the public news to show that Kaiser is indeed trying to keep it’s workers safe, which is not being publicized.

    1. Hi, Jane. Thank you! All of the stories on this website are public-facing and promoted via Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s social media.

  3. Thank you for your flexibility and innovation. Your act of kindness is much appreciated. You are saving many lives including health care professionals.

  4. What a great example of vision and creativity. Most importantly, this shows the value of having skilled, talented, in-house tradesmen and tradeswomen available to respond at a moment’s notice. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication!

  5. Thank you and we appreciate what you do. I know we don’t need to depend on any other country for supplies in this crisis. We have many talented people in this country and if we support each other, we can pass this hurdle. We are a diversified community and we need to forget discriminations among each other and become a fist to fight together. We can do everything. Believe and deliver. Thank you again and god bless.

    1. Wow, that is really amazing ! Go, Go, Kaiser Thrive!!
      Thank you so much, we appreciate you all.
      ❤️❤️❤️😘😘😘

  6. Thank you!! So inspiring of how local talent and creativity can be used to help others in this time of need.

  7. We received ours!!
    Thank you so much, we appreciate you all.
    ❤️❤️❤️😘😘😘
    From Kaiser,Richmond Ca.

  8. This is MAGNIFICENT !!! I am so happy to work with and for a company and other individuals like this. Thank you so much for being who you all are.

  9. very heartwarming…thank you so much for helping with keeping frontline staff safe. is it ok to share this with family and friends?

  10. This is AWESOME! In a uncertain and new pathway for all of us, this is a positive one! Hoping this is a sign that we can continue to make and use products here in the USA. Products made by us, used by us and available when we need them.

  11. This is such an amazing idea! I am proud to be apart of Kaiser Permanente and how they’re doing what they can, to keep our frontline workers safe. This is the good news, feel good story that needs to be on national TV.
    BRAVO to all the men and women, who are doing such a great job……

  12. I am so proud of your team’s accomplishments! It highlights that every team and teammember’s talents can make a difference. The ingenuity and speed of your innovations will have long lasting results. I am so proud of the example and standard that the Bay Area team(s) displayed. Your work has inspired me! and given me hope in this situation. Blessings to you all!

  13. This is very inspiring. These are the unsung heroes behind the scenes that are never noticed and always forgotten. All of Kaiser CPFC staff in all service areas come to work everyday committed to provide services to help build and maintain our facilities that provide and contribute to the needs of our great Nurses and Doctors to help provide exceptional health care and safety to staff and members. As I like to say, “They are not construction workers. They are health care providers doing construction work.” My hats off to Paula and all CPFC staff for there commitment, dedication and ingenuity. Great work.

  14. Thank you… amazing. Another example of why we are the “best place to work and receive care.” KP strong!

  15. Thank you to all the HARD working EMPLOYEES who are doing this !!! My respect for you all !! This is why I am proud to say that I work at KP ! People like them, us and you make KP great ! We will get through this, with the help of you , them and us ! Not only Doctors and Nurses are making a difference ! We all are ! With out you, them or us, their will be no TEAM !

    Every SINGLE Employee is making a difference and deserve to get respected and noticed for their hard work, EVERYONE !

    Lets Stay Strong, positive and lets motivate one an other !

  16. Kudos to your TEAM! Going back to basics and not big money…teamwork and ingenuity…Brilliant. You got to love it!

  17. This is AMAZING! Thank you for working on making us PPE! We truly appreciate your time and effort on this 🙂

  18. This is a great story! Three cheers to grass roots, on the fly ingenuity. It is nice to see how a large organization like a Kaiser can still be so nimble and swift with their responses.

  19. This is so wonderful to hear!! This is what makes employees at Kaiser Permanente stand out! There are ways to be inventive and help others that you may never directly work with. Thank you for what you did!

  20. What a wonderful story! Senior Leaders, what an awesome idea to use our own resources. Thank you to all that are producing them. Innovation, Innovation, Innovation! Way to go people!

  21. Really can stand behind this!! Thinking outside the box to help the frontline staff in such a tragic time and yet, still give back to our small business community. Well done, Kaiser! Well done!!

  22. I love the initiative that was taken. Now if only there was a way to make masks and other PPE. Great job!

  23. Thank you for your versatility and your expression of compassion to our community of employees, physicians and patients during this time of crisis. You are an example of what it means to adapt new behaviors to new challenges.

  24. I have worked with both Ed and Paula and they are dedicated professionals. This is but one illustration of the commitment to service demonstrated by NFS in this time of crisis. There are many more colleagues in NFS who are working day and night to ensure that KP clinical staff have the necessary facilities to face the challenge of COVID-19.

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