Sharp eyes and some brainstorming by Spectrum Health staffer Karen Duncan and former staffer Ann Shupe yielded a prototype for an improved skull cap worn during surgical procedures.

But that was the easy part. Getting the product to market was a whole new story.

That’s where the Spectrum Health Innovations team stepped in.

While Duncan and Shupe crafted the idea, the Innovations Team made it a reality through more than a year of intensive collaboration, research and testing. It was truly a team effort.

The result: a new skull cap that meets Spectrum Health’s surgical attire policy and ultimately improves patient care.

Duncan, an RN and senior accreditation specialist, said she and Shupe performed an audit to see how Spectrum Health complied with its attire policy.

“(We realized) the skull cap being used was not designed to adequately meet the requirement for covering all of the hair,” she said. “We concluded we needed to innovate a product that would meet the standard.”

Why is a proper hair covering important?

“We’re keeping everything covered and keeping the surgical areas free of any particles,” explained Kristina Emery, BSN, a clinical innovation specialist and a member of the Innovation Team. “It’s all about the patient and maintaining a safe environment for surgical procedures that supports patient safety.”

Duncan created a combination skull cap with a bouffant cap to the back bottom section of the skull cap. She said skull caps and bouffant caps are not new, but putting the two together into one piece took some ingenuity and skill.

She said she used her husband as a model to determine where to add the bouffant cap to the surgical cap to capture the span correctly from ear to ear.

“It didn’t take that long to pin and sew, about 10 to 15 minutes,” Duncan said.

Next, she turned the one-size-fits-all prototype over to Emery.

Research and testing

“My role as a clinical innovation specialist is to work with clinicians across the (Spectrum Health) system to bring their ideas to life,” Emery said.

She said the team had to confirm that there was a problem and then obtain considerable feedback from surgeons, operating room staff members, nurses, scrub technicians, anesthesiologists and so forth.

“It was a lengthy process that engaged hundreds of people to get their direction,” Emery said.

The team worked closely with Halyard Health, based in Atlanta, which owns the patent to the skull cap and is marketing the product.

“We extensively tested the prototype to make sure everything was what we were looking for and for support staff satisfaction as well,” she said.

The new non-bouffant version of the skull cap went on the market Aug. 20, with the bouffant version expected to be available in November.

Although the list of those who helped make the new skull cap a reality is a long one, Emery gave special credit to product specialist Andrew Heuerman and Anthony Lazarro from the Innovations team and also Amanda Yang, MD, who served as executive sponsor of the project.

Duncan couldn’t say enough about the cooperation and collaboration among the Innovations Team members, Spectrum Health staff and those from Halyard Health.

“If you have an idea, don’t hesitate to bring it to the Innovations Team,” Duncan said. “They are great and will help you every step of the way so that your idea actually does build and grow and become a product or a process or a solution to a problem that can make our care for our patients better.”