MIAMI SHORES, Fla. (WSVN) — Students and alumni at Barry University and Florida International University are applying the skills they learned in the classroom toward helping medical staff in the fight against the coronavirus.

At FIU, officials decided that creating reusable face shields would be the perfect way to collaborate with Baptist Health South Florida.

“One of the things we thought of — I’m a nurse and a paramedic — is the use of face shields and how crucial they are,” said Bridget Pelaez with FIU’s Department of Emergency Management. “We know there’s a shortage of N95 [masks] nationally, but when you’re utilizing a face shield, you’re elongating the life of the mask that the health care provider is wearing.”

Planning ahead, some people left campus to shelter at home with 3-D printers. A special events manager who is also an alumna created the first one.

“Things that she had around her house, the headband that holds it in place, and she also had the acrylic and she was able to hole punch that,” said spokesperson for FIU’s Department of Emergency Management.

The 3-D printing technology is allowing architecture graduate student Bret Sirfoza to take the design idea and put it into printable form, even though he’s away from campus.

“The file was designed by the original creator to be an open source file, so anybody can make it their own,” said Sirfoza. “It’s actually better for people to come in, change it around and improve it because that improves the file for everybody else in the community.”

At Barry University, 17 senior nursing students will start their journey as healthcare professionals a bit early. The students, who are part of the Cardiovascular Profusion Program, will manage the equipment commonly known as a heart/lung machine.

“It was natural, when we began to see that vthis was becoming a pandemic, that we had to look for ways to expedite the graduation of our senior students and move them into the workforce more quickly,” said John McFadden, the dean of Barry University’s School of Nursing.

With so many health professionals starting to feel the physical and emotional strain of treating more and more people with COVID-19, student Andy Kemp says he’s excited to get started.

“There’s critically ill people out there; they need us. We’re excited to get out and be a part of that and join our teams that are short-manned already,” said Kemp. “With coronavirus and the pandemic that’s occurring, we anticipate that the workload is going to increase.”

Those nursing students from Barry University are scheduled to have a virtual graduation in April.

The reusable face shields created by FIU students will be sent to Baptist Health South Florida.

Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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