The Smile Behind the Mask

Tue, 20 Oct 2020 09:57:00 BST

The Doubleday Student Society has launched a new campaign amongst healthcare professionals and students on clinical placement that aims to help communication and empathy with patients during the COVID-19 mask-wearing era.

PPE plays a vital role in keeping all of us safe, not least healthcare professionals and medical students. However, the wearing of face coverings can sometimes be intimidating, scary, or impersonal for patients; and it can also make communication more difficult – emotions like empathy have a non-verbal component which can be impossible to show while wearing a mask.

The Doubleday Student Society – part of the Doubleday Centre for Patient Experience – has launched an innovative social media campaign (#TheSmileBehindTheMask) that will help to demonstrate how healthcare professionals are continuing to deliver excellent, patient-centred care, despite the hinderance of PPE.

The idea was inspired by Calisha Allen, a newly-graduated medical student, who reflected on her time as an interim foundation doctor. Calisha felt that loss of facial expressions as part of communication impeded her ability to fully show empathy towards her patients. This became especially difficult when talking about sensitive issues such as domestic abuse or when talking to families of seriously ill patients.

The #TheSmileBehindTheMask social media campaign involves participants taking two ‘selfies’ - one without a mask with a smile and one with a mask, with just the eyes smiling – and adding tips for communicating in PPE.

Dr Robina Shah, Director of the Doubleday Centre commented:“We are absolutely delighted with the innovation, insight and collaboration our Doubleday Student Society has used to design this campaign. It’s a great example of the value we place on patient partnership between students and healthcare professionals and I am very grateful to all our students for leading the way with such vision, compassion and enthusiasm.”