Irrawang High School partners with Raymond Terrace Family Practice to provide missing piece of COVID-19 protective equipment

If there has been any silver lining to COVID-19, which has wreaked havoc on many aspects of 'normal' life, it would arguably be the rise in innovation - finding creative ways to deal with a problem.

For instance, when Raymond Terrace Family Practice, which operates one of the federal government's respiratory clinics for COVID-19 testing, began to run out of the headbands that attach to protective face shields it formed a partnership with Irrawang High School.

Using the Raymond Terrace school's 3D printers and laser cutters, teachers with help from students began to create the plastic headbands and supply the clinic with the piece of PPE they were missing.

"We change face shields between each patient seen in the clinic," Raymond Terrace Family Practice manager Rachel Kennedy said.

"We needed more of the headbands that the plastic face shield sheets attach to and we began speaking with Irrawang High School about supplying them."

STEM teachers David Graham and Matt Stanley were enthusiastic about the challenge.

"There was a lot of trial and error in the first week," Mr Graham said. "We 3D printed a design, which came out a bit too small. We adjusted it but found that our printers were a bit too small for what we needed. It was also taking four hours or more to print them. I thought we could also try to laser cut the headbands, which took much less time - about four minutes.

"We have a few different types of headbands for staff to try and see what style they like. They're the same design-wise in that they are plastic and can be easily cleaned."

SOLUTION: Irrawang High School captain and Year 12 engineering student Sierra Noffke, 16, said it was "really great" that the school could be involved in creating headbands for the face shields needed by Raymond Terrace Respiratory Clinic staff.

SOLUTION: Irrawang High School captain and Year 12 engineering student Sierra Noffke, 16, said it was "really great" that the school could be involved in creating headbands for the face shields needed by Raymond Terrace Respiratory Clinic staff.

Irrawang's STEM and engineering students have also been part of the project, helping to create different headband styles and troubleshooting when issues arise.

"We've found that when you can find real world applications and students can see the fruits of their labour, they engage with the project a lot more," Mr Stanley said.

"We've had students looking over our shoulders on this project, ready to change an element of the design that's not working. It has been really good to be involved in this."

Mr Graham added that, after creating about six new headbands for staff at the practice to try, they would wait for feedback on the designs and move forward in making design tweaks and producing more headbands.

Irrawang High School captain and Year 12 engineering student Sierra Noffke, 16, said it was exciting that the school could be involved in creating the headbands.

"Anything we can do to help during this health crisis, to make the community a bit safer, is great," she said. "I never would have thought at the beginning of the year that we'd be using the school's 3D printers and laser cutter to make something that has a medical purpose."

Since the respiratory clinic opened at the practice, which is located inside the Raymond Terrace Community Health Centre, on April 9, staff have seen 1000 patients, Ms Kennedy said.

"The support we have received from the community, the council and NSW Health has been fantastic," Ms Kennedy said. "It's excellent to now have the school's support with our PPE."

Modifications were made to the building and road outside to accommodate the needs of the respiratory clinic. The fire escape at the rear of the building was converted into an entry for patients being tested for COVID-19.

Part of Swan Street, the roadway immediately outside the new entry door, was converted from two-way to one-way traffic and a number of parking spots specifically for patients established.

A see-through barrier was also put up inside the building which separates the COVID-19 testing area from the rest of the clinic.

Ms Kennedy said to see a doctor at the Raymond Terrace Respiratory Clinic a patient must be symptomatic. Symptoms of COVID-19 include: fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath. To book an appointment, go to rtfp.com.au/Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Raymond Terrace Family Practice is offering a drive through flu vaccination service. The flu vaccinations are being done in the carpark of Raymond Terrace Bowling Club. To book an appointment, phone the practice on (02) 4983 0900.

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