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How to communicate effectively while wearing face masks

02 December 2020
5 min read
Volume 31 · Issue 12

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed communication in nursing. Aby Mitchell and Barry Hill provide recommendations for improving communication when wearing a face covering

Communication is an essential part of nursing care and practice. The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed communication in healthcare. The 2 metre social distancing rule combined with the need to wear face masks has made communication more challenging. Wearing masks reduces the ability to access the non-verbal facial expressions and cues, such as lip movements, that are so vital to daily communication. Practice nurses rely on non-verbal communication as part of a complete holistic assessment and to build therapeutic relationships. This article provides some recommendations for improving communication when wearing a face covering.

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed healthcare communication with the requirement of clinicians, nurses, hospital and community staff, and patients, to wear face masks. Health professionals are expected to communicate with patients while maintaining social distancing of 2 metres. Yet, facial expressions are closely tied to our emotions and our faces provide key information of personal identity providing additional information that supports the understanding of speech as well as emotional expression (Carbon, 2020). Wearing masks reduces the ability to access the non-verbal facial expressions and cues, such as lip movements, that are so vital to daily communication. In early June the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that mask use in medical care settings introduces potential harms and risks that ‘should be carefully taken into account’ when caring for members of several populations, including the deaf and hard of hearing community (Chodosh, 2020; WHO, 2020).

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