PPE. Personal Protective Equipment. Such a cold and distant term, isn’t it? Due to the current social and regulatory environment stimulated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this clinical term is rapidly becoming part of routine conversation in non-clinical settings. Are the service providers in your community (retail clerks, travel-industry personnel, bank tellers, automotive mechanics) wearing their PPE? Are you wearing yours?
A rallying-cry for 2020/2021 may well turn out to be something like Mask-Up-For-Health! However, with all of this masking that has been going-on, it may be argued that some essential components of human interaction are being lost. It is comforting to observe that some folks in the healthcare field have begun to consider and act on this possibility.
A team at Stanford Medicine and partnered with The Arnold P. Gold Foundation and Occidental College have asked: How can we foster humanism in medicine, when the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is required and providers don masks, glasses and gowns to protect their eyes, noses, and mouths from COVID-19?
Now there is an excellent and necessary question.
Lead: Cati Brown-Johnson, PhD
Team: Mary Beth Heffernan, Paige Parsons, Juliana Baratta, Alexis Amano, Mae Verano, Cynthia Perez
The team states that, “We believe PPE Portraits may support patient care and health, and even healthcare team function and provider wellness.
PPE Portraits are one possible solution: disposable provider portrait picture stickers (4×5) affixed to PPE where patients can see them. Our brief pilot showed signs of interest and adoption: a participating physician requested PPE Portraits at their clinic and masked medical assistant team-members required PPE Portraits to wear over scrubs.“
How does it work? The Stanford Medicine team is taking a position that it is not unlike how a placebo works, ” we know that provider warmth and competence are positively associated with health at the biological level. Personal protective equipment (PPE) signals competence; portraits could be one of the only signals of warmth for patients who have, or may have, COVID-19. PPE Portraits are disposable portrait picture stickers (4×5 inches) put on PPE that can help patients and providers form a personal connection to positively impact patient health.“
In a Smithsonian article, the project is described as “a way to reintroduce the aesthetic of kindness into patient care“. Fostering humanism is fostering an aesthetic of kindness. No surprise to the humanistfreedoms.com team!
The concept has been with Heffernan since at least 2014, based on an article on hyperallergic.com. Journalist Laura C. Mallonee quoted Heffernan as saying about an ebola epidemic in the news at the time, “Wouldn’t they be less frightening if the person on the inside was pictured on the outside?”
A humanist approach could make a pandemic less frightening? No surprise to the humanistfreedoms.com team! Good ideas deserve to be shared.
If you are affiliated-with or aware-of an institution whose clientele may benefit by a PPE portraits launch or by participating in ongoing research, you may wish to consider contacting Cati Brown-Johnson or Mary Beth Heffernan.
If you found this article interesting, you may also wish to see these earlier articles:
- Critically Thinking About COVID 19 – Part I
- Critically Thinking About COVID 19- Part II
- Gold Humanism Society Inducts Class of 2021
Sources, Citations and References
- Featured Photo Courtesy of https://med.stanford.edu/pcph/research/ppe-project.html
The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.