More than 400 students fit-tested for N95 respirators

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public relations | July 30, 2020

Image with caption: Chandran Achutan, PhD, fit tests student Alex Ciurej.

Chandran Achutan, PhD, fit tests student Alex Ciurej.

Since June, more than 400 College of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry and Allied Health Professions students at UNMC have been fit-tested for N95 respirators.

"Ensuring a proper fitting respirator is critical to the health and safety of students who will be working with patients or in clinical areas," said Chandran Achutan, PhD, associate professor and graduate studies director in the department of environmental, agricultural and occupational health in the UNMC College of Public Health.

Dr. Achutan, who is a certified industrial hygienist and specializes in workplace safety, is leading the efforts.

"We have been talking about fit testing students for a few years now, and when the pandemic hit, we decided it was the best time to do so," Dr. Achutan said.

To test the fit of each respirator, Dr. Achutan said he sprays a saccharin solution into a hood the student wears at the same time they are wearing the respirator and performing typical activities, such as shaking their head, talking, bending over and breathing.

"If the concentration of the saccharin inside the respirator is much lower than the concentration outside, then we conclude there is a good fit," he said.

All of the students selected were chosen by their college because they will be going into clinics, long-term care facilities or coming into contact with patients and need the proper personal protective equipment.

The entire project has been a team effort, Dr. Achutan said, from his graduate students who helped set up the test sites and found easier to use aerosol sprayers, to the administrators and faculty who helped identify students, set up appointments and developed a data base to collect results.

"It really exemplified the UNMC value of teamwork to get this done," he said. "I am happy to just be a part of such an impressive team."

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Patrick Wortmann
July 30, 2020 at 11:04 AM

This project was the epitome of teamwork. There would have been no way to accomplish this task, on such short notice, without it. Thank you to all involved.

Laurey Steinke
July 30, 2020 at 10:49 AM

Thanks to Chandran, Beth, Mimi and the HEROES for keeping our students safe. I am very proud to work with all of you, and miss seeing you in-person!

Elizabeth Beam
July 30, 2020 at 8:28 AM

Kudos to Mimi McCann in Environmental Health and Safety as well, who coordinated much of this effort and developed the respiratory protection program.

Elizabeth Beam
July 30, 2020 at 8:27 AM

Media was developed by the College of Nursing HEROES program that educated the students on how to use the respirators correctly, which is critically important to the students being protected. LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnXN1OD6VRw&feature=youtu.be