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Coronavirus Care: Hospital Workers Find Way To Show Smiles Despite Wearing Face Masks

WORCESTER (CBS) -- With healthcare workers' faces covered by masks to stay safe during the coronavirus, some bedside manner is lost. But the UMass Memorial Medical Center palliative care team found a way around it.

In a stroke of brilliance, the team decided to attach pictures of their smiling faces to their uniforms so patients could see what they look like, as well as a friendly face.

"Some people ask 'Is that you?'" said Shawna Steadman. "It's just here to make sure you aren't too lonely or scared and helps connect us a little bit."

The team said the "no visitor" policy at the hospital is making it difficult to comfort patients, and that making an emotional connection is hard when all you can see is each other's eyes. Now that they're wearing their smiles, they said they're getting a great reaction.

"It's scary enough to be in the hospital, but now you're in the hospital with people that you can't see," Nancy McCool said. "It's kind of funny walking around with this great big pictures of yourself. But it's been really effective, and people love it."

(Image Credit: UMass Memorial Medical Center)

The team said being a healthcare worker is about more than fixing people physically -- it's about being there for people emotionally for them and their families during a difficult time.

"The best way to do that is through body language, smiling," Steadman said.

But when the whole world is wearing masks for safety reasons, it's hard to bridge that gap.

"It's a whole different way of having to relate, so that they feel like they're being heard and understood and cared for," McCool said.

The Worcester hospital is on the front lines fighting the coronavirus in Massachusetts, but it seems their staff is still taking the time to be thoughtful and friendly. Other departments said they may start doing the same.

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