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Rosie the Riveter inspires nurse to make clever headbands for health care workers

The headbands help relieve discomfort that comes with wearing a face mask for a long period of time.

ORLANDO, Fla. — We've seen a lot of people getting creative, making face masks to distribute to essential workers. For many it's a way to take initiative and show some kindness.

One nurse in Orlando is using her love for sewing to support her fellow nurses in another way.

“Originally it was just to kind of show our solidarity as nurses,” Kelly Barrett said. “We are in unprecedented times where we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or even by the end of our shift.”

Barrett is a neonatal ICU nurse at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.

“Seems like everybody’s wearing masks these days, just like out in the grocery store or wherever you’re going, but nurses work 12/13-hour shifts at a time and we have to wear them at all times,” Barrett said. “So, it really does cause breakdown on the back of your ear when you have it that long.”

On her days off she’s now choosing to sit at her sewing machine, hard at work. She’s created a solution that helps alleviate some of the discomfort that comes with wearing face masks.

Credit: Kelly Barrett

“What I’m making are these handy little headbands with buttons on the side,” Barrett said. “They actually help to hold up these level one masks that we are required to wear, so instead of it hanging around our ears they hang around these little buttons and it makes it really comfortable to wear for a 12/13-hour a day.”

What seems like such a simple concept has made a world of difference.

“Almost every single person that has worn one of the headbands says to me it's a game-changer,” Barrett said.

“It saves the ears of nurses and not just nurses, doctors, therapists, management,” Barrett said. “Even the security worker I saw downstairs was wearing a headband so that made me happy.”

What started out as a project to make these headbands for just a few of her friends, turned into 250 of them that have been shipped all over the country. She's even shipped some right here in the Tampa Bay area.

With the word out there, and the requests flowing in for headbands, Barrett recruited some help from her family, her boyfriend and his family.

The design of these clever headbands, red with white polka dots, was inspired by a well-known icon.

"There's this little graphic that's floating around the internet and it's Rosie the Riveter as a nurse,” Barrett said.

Credit: Lia Fernandez

“I’m sitting there at my sewing machine like man, why am I so inspired by this and I realized that this icon was a World War II icon that would empower women in the workforce to complete these jobs that were not meant for them or they thought would be impossible for women and Rosie the Riveter kind of empowered these women to show them that we can do hard things.

She says it relates to nurses because just like Rosie the Riveter, they can do hard things, and they are as they navigate through this coronavirus pandemic.

“She’s such an American icon, a patriotic icon and I kind of feel like a sense of patriotism almost,” Barrett said. “What I can do for us and what I can empower other people to do for our country is just so inspiring to me, so it’s worth all of the hours that are spent making these things.”

Credit: Kelly Barrett

She’s making and shipping them out-of-pocket, but she’s started to get donations through Venmo to help make more. Barrett says even one of her old bosses from college pitched in.

“He sent me money through Venmo for these headbands because he just thinks it’s awesome,” Barrett said. “I sent one to his sister who lives out in Washington and he sent me a really generous donation for the headband fund.”

Venmo saw that he was donating to a good cause and so they got involved.

“Venmo sent him an amount and they were like. 'hey we see that you were donating to a good cause, here’s some more,' and it was like #VenmoItForward,” Barrett says.

Each headband takes almost 20 minutes to make. After she’s done she attaches a tag that reads, “We can do it!”

She says it’s tedious, but every minute is worth it.

If you’d like to donate to the cause you can email her here..

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