Unmasking communication during COVID-19

Unmasking communication during COVID-19

As face masks become ubiquitous in our health-care practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, communication between the patient and health-care provider has become harder than ever before. The challenges posed by COVID-19 have highlighted various areas of deficiencies in the health care industry as well as heightened anxiety among health-care providers as well as patients. Communication with patients has become particularly challenging and ever so more important than before.

Imagine the plight of a patient struggling to breathe, being greeted by someone in full PPE, struggling to understand your muffled speech through the mask amidst the background noise of oxygen hissing through a breathing mask. Earlier, your smile would have worked to ease some of the anxiety by coming across as approachable and friendly; however, your face mask has cost you a brave soldier in your battle of gaining trust. The situation is worse in the elderly, frail, and cognitively impaired patients who may rely on lip-reading and facial expressions to communicate.

Health care workers are forced to have difficult conversations of do-not-resuscitate orders, advance care planning, and break bad news while wearing a face mask and PPE, creating a barrier for effective communication with patients and their family members.

If you have previously relied on a firm handshake and a smile to lessen the anxiety of patients but are now finding it challenging to have clear communication, here are few ways to improve communication with patients.

Unmasking communication during COVID-19
Cite this article as: Neha Hudlikar, UAE, "Unmasking communication during COVID-19," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, August 10, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/08/10/unmasking-communication-during-covid-19/, date accessed: September 27, 2020

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