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Presentation date

2021

College, Institute, or Department

Internal Medicine

Faculty Mentor

Shannon Thomsen

Research Mentor

Jana Wardian

Abstract

Background

As it became known that SARS-CoV-2 was spread through droplets, masks became a primary form of protection. While wearing masks was not a new in the health field, little is known about how they affect the patient-provider relationship.

Methods

We conducted interviews with patients and providers regarding their experience with mask-wearing in the hospital. Participants came from Internal Medicine hospitalists and patients. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded for analysis and interpretation.

Results

Our population included 9 patients and 9 providers. The benefit of wearing masks is safety; many providers stated they did not get sick at all during the pandemic. The main challenge providers perceived was connecting with patients. The connection concern was common amongst providers. Adaptations to overcome it included showing their face, speaking louder/clearer, spending more time with patients, and being more expressive in their communication. However, some providers felt there were situations in which removing masks for a critical conversation would be the better option.

Discussion

While both parties welcome the safety aspect of masks, providers had concerns about the connection with their patients. However, patients did not notice a significant effect on communicating with providers or their quality of care. This difference in perception could be due to patients having no prior knowledge to compare their interactions, whereas providers recall interactions prior to the pandemic without masks. For future policy, patients and providers would favor wearing masks but providers would like to be able to remove them when necessary for patient connection.

Keywords

masks, COVID, communication, patient, provider

The Experience of Wearing Masks in the Hospital:

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