Coronavirus is an incredibly infectious virus. Each person with the virus can infect between two and four other people, whereas those with influenza tend to infect only one to two more people. While that may not seem like much of a difference, it makes a massive change as the numbers get bigger.
In an attempt to avoid infection, healthcare workers are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when they treat patients. Their gear typically includes goggles, a visor, respirator, a hair cap, a gown, as well as gloves.
When a healthcare worker is under all that gear, it can be hard to make a human connection with patients. But healthcare workers have found a creative way around that problem, and some have started wearing name tags with photos of themselves smiling attached.
"Yesterday I felt bad for my patients in ER when I would come in the room with my face covered in PPE," Robertino Rodriguez, a respiratory therapist at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, explained in an Instagram post. "A reassuring smile makes a big difference to a scared patient. So today I made a giant laminated badge for my PPE. So my patients can see a reassuring and comforting smile."
And the idea seems to be spreading. "Saw this idea on Instagram and thought it was a beautiful way to bring ease to our patients during this stressful time," another doctor explained. "Thank you to all the healthcare workers out there for battling on the frontlines. To all those who are staying home, huge shout out to you! I know that is also not easy."
"I was inspired by [Robertino Rodriguez] who works as a respiratory therapist in this COVID pandemic," another healthcare worker explained. "I didn’t have a preprinted photo or a color printer so my polaroid will have to do. I wanted to bring a personal touch to caring for patients through my PPE. My hope is that our patients will know there’s a reassuring smile under this mask and that we’re here for them."
Healthcare workers and others seem to love the idea. "Great idea," one healthcare worker wrote. "I felt the VERY SAME today talking to patients in pre-op! I always try to have a reassuring face/smile before putting them to sleep. Seemed COLD talking with PPE on! Be SAFE!"
While one user wrote: "Hats off to our nurses, doctors and the rest of the hospital staff."
And other added: "A smile does make a world of difference!!"
Hopefully, the idea will help to reassure some patients.
The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org.