May 28, 2020

Winnipeg
9° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Winnipeg Free Press

ABOVE THE FOLD

Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Health-care head covering made with heart

Winnipeg nurse, teacher team up to provide front-line hospital workers with homemade surgical scrub caps

Opinion

The Free Press has made this story available free of charge so everyone can access trusted information on the coronavirus.

Support this work and subscribe today

A casual conversation between friends has spawned an online campaign to provide Winnipeg’s front-line hospital workers with homemade surgical scrub caps during the COVID-19 crisis.

Click to Expand

CARING AMID THE COVID-19 CRISIS

Did someone get you groceries during your self-isolation? Did you deliver a meal to a neighbour? Did someone go above and beyond for you during this trying time? Tell us about it. We want to share the uplifting stories happening in our community as we cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Email kindness@freepress.mb.ca

"In light of the pandemic, everyone just feels they want to be as protected as possible, and that means covering up," Jill Bright, a nurse in the adult emergency department at Health Sciences Centre, said this week.

"If we can cover our hair up, we feel a little more protected... We want to ensure that we’re totally covered."

Bright said operating room staff are typically the only ones provided with surgical scrub caps because they work in a sterile environment.

However, concerns about the novel coronavirus have sparked a strong desire among staff in other areas of the hospital to have their heads covered.

"It’s for personal protection," said Bright, who is married, with two stepdaughters. "There’s that desire to feel more protected and to know you are covered up as much as you can so you know you’re not bringing anything back to your family."

"If we can cover our hair up, we feel a little more protected... We want to ensure that we’re totally covered," Jill Bright said.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

"If we can cover our hair up, we feel a little more protected... We want to ensure that we’re totally covered," Jill Bright said.

The online campaign to enlist local sewers to produce cotton caps for nurses and other front-line hospital staff was born after Bright discussed her concerns with close friend Rebecca Chambers, a human ecology teacher at Shaftesbury High School.

"I wanted to sew myself a couple of scrub caps to wear," the ER nurse recalled. "I told (Chambers)... and then I got this message 20 minutes later and she had sewed this scrub cap already, and said, ‘Is this what you’re thinking about?’

"I wore it on my next shift and people said, ‘Oh, wow! What’s this about?’... and everyone jumped on board. It kind of exploded from there... Every day I get messages and people ask, ‘Oh, can I get two or three?’"

The response drove Chambers to create a Facebook group to encourage the local sewing community to start creating the garments for nurses and staff in other hospital departments.

The response drove Rebecca Chambers to create a Facebook group to encourage the local sewing community to start creating the garments for nurses and staff in other hospital departments.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRE

The response drove Rebecca Chambers to create a Facebook group to encourage the local sewing community to start creating the garments for nurses and staff in other hospital departments.

The Facebook group, which was nearing 80 members Tuesday, contains a plea for sewers, detailed instructions on how to make the caps, a print-at-home pattern, and names of pickup/delivery contacts at various city hospitals.

"What we want is people who can sew caps at home for health-care workers," said Chambers, who is isolating at home with her husband and three sons. "If they don’t have a person in mind that they want to give the caps to, they can go to the Facebook page to find a drop-off location.

"There’s also a chat function, so if people have a question about sewing or need stuff picked up, they can send a message and someone can help."

Rebecca Chambers’  pattern for washable and reusable caps for nurses at her home work bench.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRE

Rebecca Chambers’ pattern for washable and reusable caps for nurses at her home work bench.

While the project is barely a week old, the homemade headgear has become an in-demand item at a number of city hospitals. Chambers and Bright noted the project has also gone viral and spread to other Canadian cities, including Kenora, Ont., Penticton, B.C., and Halifax.

"The demand is so big I’m sure people are sewing all day long," Bright said. "I pick up 10 from Rebecca every day and hand them out. There’s just so many people sitting at home wanting to contribute and feel they’re being helpful and supporting the front-line workers."

Chambers created patterns for two styles of washable cotton caps: one for short hair, the other for long. The caps are also equipped with buttons on the side to which the elastic ear loops of face masks can be attached.

"We have 300 health-care workers in our department alone — not including doctors — and most people have said they’d be interested in having two or three caps," Bright said. "I feel we can continue to sew these until everyone has a couple. The demand is really high."

Nurses at HSC wearing their homemade surgical scrub caps.

SUPPLIED

Nurses at HSC wearing their homemade surgical scrub caps.

The reaction from staff receiving the hand-sewn head coverings has been emotional and powerful.

"It’s nice to see that we in the hospital can be a little excited about something," Bright said. "Everyone is very anxious about what’s going on.

"I received a text message from a colleague. She said: ‘I really can’t explain it, but it really brought us together and put smiles on our faces. It brought a little bit of joy when we really need it the most.’"

Chambers said the caps need to be made from high-quality cotton so they can be washed and reused.

"Pure cotton is best, but quilting cotton and poplin and muslin are fine. The higher the cotton content, the better," Chambers said.

"A lot of people who are sewing are running out of fabric. So we are also accepting donations of suitable fabric, buttons and thread."

Jill Bright wearing a handmade surgical scrub cap.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jill Bright wearing a handmade surgical scrub cap.

Much to the teacher’s delight, the simple, handmade caps have become a symbol of how a community can give back to health workers putting themselves at risk.

"I’m very happy," she said. "My personal mantra in teaching is to build people up and bring them together. That’s why I’m a teacher. It feels great to be making these for the people who are on the front lines of this battle."

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Download Pattern for surgical caps

Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs
Columnist

Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.

Read full biography

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.