Creativity, partnerships help prepare local health system

Caregivers pose wearing cloth masks donated by community members

Caregivers sport colorful homemade masks created and donated by community members.

April 17, 2020

Our efforts to prepare for the fight against COVID-19 have been far reaching. Our teams continue to work internally every day to ensure our patients and our caregivers are protected. We are also learning from the experiences of health care systems across the country, from New York to Washington state, to help prepare.

Perhaps the most inspiring is the effort that has come from closer to home. When we put out the call to the community to help us prepare, they responded.

“From homemade masks to hand sanitizer, we’re amazed at the community’s generosity and response. It is a reminder that we live in a very special place,” said Vice President of Operations Brian Lee.

From spirits to hand sanitizer 

Gulch distillers
Steffan Rasille and Tyrell Hibbard of Gulch Distillers

Under normal circumstances, distilleries and hospitals use alcohol in very different ways. But what may have seemed like an unlikely union a few months ago is now a useful partnership.

Hand sanitizer nationwide is on back-order from many typical suppliers and shelves at local stores are scarce. While St. Peter’s Health is not currently experiencing a hand sanitizer shortage, we want to be prepared. Plus providing an opportunity for our caregivers to access the product to bring home to their families seemed like the right thing to do.

Enter Gulch Distillers, a local distillery owned by Helenans Steffan Rasille and Tyrell Hibbard.

Like many other distilleries across the nation and Montana, they continue to practice their craft but in a new, innovative way. They’ve traded spirits for hand sanitizer. The local distillery has so far created over 25 gallons of 80 percent alcohol sanitizer to add to our stock and to send home with St. Peter’s employees.

Sewing our community together with love

Within 10 hours of sharing that we were planning to ask the community to sew masks for our caregivers on Facebook, we had over 350 comments from interested community members. Within a day, the post reached over 25,000 people.

From sewing groups like Helena Quilters Guild and Masks for Montana to individuals who want to hone their sewing skills, we have been grateful for the community’s continued support in this effort. If you want to donate your time and talents to make homemade masks, please click HERE for more information and instructions.

Thinking outside-the-box results in… well, a box 

Protecting our caregivers while still providing exceptional patient care during the COVID-19 crisis is vitally important.

Endotracheal intubation is an emergency procedure that is performed on people who cannot breath on their own. Some critically ill patients who are experiencing complications from COVID-19 may need to be intubated.

intubation box
A St. Peter's facilities team created an intubation box.

It can be a life-saving procedure that allows a patient to be put on a ventilator.

To intubate a patient, caregivers are required to be very close to the patient, and there is a high likelihood that contagious droplets are aerosolized, or sprayed/suspended in the air.

Although our caregivers wear PPE during this procedure, we wanted to provide an additional layer of protection. Our facilities team put their skills and creativity to work to create an intubation box that will allow medical professionals to safely complete the emergency procedure for the patient while keeping caregivers safe, too.

Creating masks within our walls

3D printer
3D printers have been used to make masks. 

Along with many other health systems across the state, St. Peter’s looked inward to find ways to make masks for caregivers in the event of a personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage. Masks made on 3D printers is one common solution.

Once a mask and filter model was identified, our materials management team put their skills and printers to work. We are now printing masks at the Regional Medical Center in Helena, and working with a handful of community members and organizations to assist us in this effort.

If community members or civic groups would like to donate their time and talents to assist us in making 3D masks, please contact Community Relations Coordinator Shari Hagengruber at



“In emergency management there is a saying: you don’t want to be trading business cards in the middle of a crisis."

~ St. Peter’s Health Emergency Coordinator Will Kussman