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Grin and Wear It: Passavant Auxiliary Project Reveals ‘Smile Behind the Mask’


Shelly Steinmetz, RN, MSN, wears her smile button while on the job at Passavant Area Hospital. [Photo by Kara Slating / Memorial Health System] JACKSONVILLE – Face coverings may be a part of our new normal, but for patients in a hospital setting, not being able to see the person caring for them can cause anxiety. To help patients be more at ease, healthcare workers at Passavant Area Hospital are participating in an initiative that puts photos of their smiling faces on large buttons. Healthcare workers wear the buttons so patients can see the smile behind the mask.

“Sometimes the personal protective equipment that healthcare workers wear can look intimidating,” said Barb Bucy, president of the Passavant Area Hospital Auxiliary. “These buttons will give extra comfort to our patients to see the smiling face of the person caring for them.”

Depending on the role, healthcare workers at Passavant Area Hospital must wear different forms of personal protective equipment, which can include masks, face shields, hoods and eye protection, to protect themselves and others against illness such as COVID-19.

An important part of patient care is the quick building of trust and rapport between patient and caregiver, said Jon Wilkerson, RN, Emergency Department. “It’s harder to establish that hallmark of a great patient experience when our patients can’t see our faces. In our protective gear, we all tend to look the same,” he said. “The ability to recognize individual caregivers is important to our patients.”

The buttons have been well-received at Passavant, said Bucy. Approximately 150 buttons have been made for staff with more in production. Funding for the buttons is provided by the Passavant Area Hospital Auxiliary, while the buttons are created by Passavant Area Hospital volunteers who make the buttons from their homes to accommodate hospital visitor restrictions.

 “We have a great team of professionals who put the emotional needs and personal safety of our patients and families first,” said Leanna Wynn, affiliate vice president and chief nursing officer at Passavant Area Hospital. “Something as simple as a smile – even if it’s on a button – can help ease the fear of an anxious patient.”