Experiences of wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) from a medical practitioner's professional perspective

Author: Dr Natalya Fox (medical practitioner), Registrar - Acute Medicine

2. Interactions with patients

Developing a relationship with the patient through the PPE involves often having to lean in closer to the patient despite the risk of infection, as it is often difficult to hear through the masks which act as a muffler and can be very tricky with elderly and hard of hearing patients.  Speaking slower and louder is also frequently required, as well as clarifying if the patient would like anything repeated. Such interactions can be time consuming but necessary to ensure the patient is given every opportunity to understand what is happening. In some circumstances, writing on paper instead can also be helpful if time permits. I also regularly employ touch to reassure or comfort patients where I place a hand on theirs or similar (when it is deemed appropriate) and I’ve found that patients frequently use hand squeezing to answer questions when verbal communication is a struggle.  

Communication with both patients and relatives alike (over telephone or video calls) has certainly become more time and energy consuming, and as a consequence can be emotionally draining although always rewarding and essential to keep patients and relatives informed.