Pilot tests for prototype face shield to replace goggles

A nurse (right) donning the new face shield prototype which comes with a frame that leverages 3D-printing technology, while another wears the face visor that healthcare staff can currently opt for in lieu of wearing protective goggles. ST PHOTO: KEVI
A nurse (right) donning the new face shield prototype which comes with a frame that leverages 3D-printing technology, while another wears the face visor that healthcare staff can currently opt for in lieu of wearing protective goggles. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

For healthcare professionals working on the front lines, donning protective gear such as N95 masks and goggles, though necessary, can be uncomfortable and cumbersome.

Ms Lin Ying, 38, who works as a nurse at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), said: "After prolonged use, the goggles and masks, which put pressure on the nose bridge, can cause pain."

The lenses of the goggles also tend to fog up, reducing visibility for the wearer and even resulting in giddiness at times, added Ms Lin, who wears the protective equipment for two to three hours on average when she tends to infected patients.

These problems prompted Dr Shawn Vasoo, senior consultant and clinical director of the NCID, to conceptualise the prototype of a face shield that may replace the protective goggles, together with staff from the Centre for Healthcare Innovation, NCID and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

The shield - which consists of a clear plastic sheet held up by a spectacle frame, an elastic band or a Velcro strip - protects the wearer's face during risky procedures such as the suctioning of bodily fluids that might be potentially infectious.

Made using 3D-printing, these prototypes were modelled after an older face shield used during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003. They were showcased to the media at the Centre for Healthcare Innovation's Living Lab yesterday.

"When people are uncomfortable with the equipment they use, they start adjusting it, which might lead to contamination, and pose a certain risk to the healthcare worker," said Dr Vasoo.

The prototypes are slated to be rolled out for pilot testing in three departments within the hospital on Feb 21.

Currently, healthcare staff at TTSH and NCID can opt for a visor which comes with a surgical mask in lieu of protective goggles.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2020, with the headline 'Pilot tests for prototype face shield to replace goggles'. Print Edition | Subscribe