Under normal circumstances, hospital patients are allowed to have visitors, which provides comfort, company and support and helps keep loneliness at bay. But these are far from normal circumstances, and visiting patients with COVID-19 is strictly forbidden. Even doctors and nurses have to keep their distance, and the layers of personal protective equipment (PPE) they’re required to wear make the interaction even less personal. It’s impossible even to see a smile behind a surgical mask and protective glasses.
But one inventive healthcare worker came up with a way to help make his COVID-19 patients feel a little more connected to him.
“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, wrote on 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.”
Inspired by Rodriguez, healthcare workers in other parts of the country have started sharing photos of themselves wearing name tags with cheerful pictures of themselves over their PPE.
“Saw this idea on IG and thought it was a beautiful way to bring ease to our patients during this stressful time,” Derek DeVault, a nurse based in Los Angeles, captioned an Instagram photo of himself and two of his colleagues. “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.”
And emergency room doctor Peggy Ji, who says on Instagram that “saving lives is her job,” shared a similar photo after being inspired by Rodriguez. “I didn’t have a preprinted photo or a color printer so my polaroid will have to do,” she wrote. “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.”
These front line workers are heroes already, but going this extra step for their patients during unbearably difficult times is yet another reason to be grateful for them.