Doctors and nurses are undoubtedly the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting themselves at personal risk to save our loved ones. They have to wear crucial protective gear as they fight this virus, much like soldiers going into battle, and an obvious side effect of that is that their faces remain covered for their entire shifts.

This means that their patients don’t get to see the face of the people who are caring for them–an experience that can feel very alienating, especially with the additional worries of the illness itself. Not being able to see who is administering your treatment or to recognize one worker from the next can add to the overall stress.

One healthcare worker pondered that question and came up with a creative solution to remedy the situation and make the patient’s experience a little more reassuring.

A smile and friendly face can do wonders

San Diego respiratory therapist Robertino Rodriguez had a desire to do something a little different. He knew the protective gear was imperative, but he found a way to show himself through it, literally!

Yesterday I felt bad for my patients in ER when I would come in the room with my face covered in PPE. A reassuring smile makes a big difference to a scared patient.

Robertino Rodriguez

So Robertino made a laminated badge, a picture of himself with a beaming smile, that he could wear on top of his protective suit. On the photo on his uniform, Rodriguez wears a suit and tie and a beaming smile, a great way to remind people there’s a human underneath that mask and gear.

“One thing health care workers do to make our patients feel at ease is to reassure them with our smiles but now that we have to wear masks, we are unable to do this,” he told The Huffington Post.

A smile goes a long way in comforting a scared patient ― bringing some brightness in these dark times.

Robertino Rodriguez to The Huffington Post

Soon, other doctors and nurses followed his lead

Robertino’s simple, but clever idea started a whole movement. Soon enough, other healthcare followed his lead and printed their own pictures to stick on their protective gear.

“I didn’t have a preprinted photo or a color printer so my polaroid will have to do,” Peggy Ji, an ER doctor in Los Angeles, wrote on Instagram.

“These patients come in with a cough, shortness of breath, or fever and the question on their minds and everyone’s mind is, ‘Do I have COVID?’” Peggy said.

Putting herself in their shoes, she realized how intimidating and frightening the whole ordeal could be from their perspective.

I can only imagine how intimidating it is seeing a team of nurses, respiratory therapists and doctors entering their room in full PPE gear, on top of everything else.

Peggy Ji

A photo, she said, helps patients “connect a human and a smile to the walking spacesuit and masks in front of them.”

Another doctor adapted her suit for children

Another doctor who works in a pediatric ward in São Paulo, Brazil, got a little whimsical with her photo, adding Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” to her badge.

As a pediatrician, she works with children and wanted to find a way to help them through their stay at the hospital. A Disney character was surely going to help them through it.

It’s so easy to feel scared and alone in the face of so much sickness and uncertainty. And, with patients often unable to see their loved ones as they are hospitalized, a little bit of personal touch by the people trying to keep them alive goes a long way.

Robertino and all the other healthcare workers have proven the selflessness behind their work. Not only do they want to help patients get better, they also want to make them feel comfortable throughout it all.

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