Top tips for successful communication while wearing PPE

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For many healthcare professionals, PPE has directly impacted the way care is delivered in the home and hospital. The requirement to wear clinical face coverings has restricted the way nurses and support workers communicate with their clients in many different ways.

In our latest blog, Nurse Manager, Nikki Goulding, shares her top tips for maintaining communication and relationships with clients and their loved ones whilst wearing PPE.

Effective communication is vital in healthcare. It’s what builds and maintains a relationship between the healthcare professional and the client. After all, people are social beings and we need care from others, especially when we are at our most vulnerable. The Royal College of Nursing has created a useful article which details the importance of good communication, especially during these times. Our tone of voice, use of words and body language are all contributing factors to sustaining strong relationships with our clients. As healthcare professionals, we are the eyes and ears of our clients. We support them day-to-day by not only providing high-quality care but also reassurance and companionship.

With the increased use of PPE, it now means clients are unable to see your full face, lip read or hear you clearly. This can easily lead to confusion, anxiety and stress, which may create an unsettling environment.


Top tips for improving communication while wearing PPE

As healthcare professionals, it’s our responsibility to be aware of our surroundings and make sure clients are calm and happy in their homes. To give you some guidance, I’ve compiled together a list of top tips to try while wearing PPE:

  1. Speak clearly and calmly.  When communicating with a client, try speaking slowly and pronounce your words clearly. It may be worth raising the volume of your voice slightly to make sure you can be heard through the face mask or visor you’re wearing. Remember not to shout or raise your voice too much as this may scare or confuse them.
  2. Focus is key. It’s important to maintain your focus and make sure when you're communicating to really concentrate on the client. Doing so will help you to read their reactions and facial expressions to gauge whether they can understand you.
  3. Maintain eye contact. Eye contact is another way of telling the client you are communicating with them. It’s important to look at the client when you are speaking with them so they are aware and engaged.
  4. Remember to smile! Despite clients not being able to see your mouth, they will most certainly be able to tell when you're smiling. Your eyes will light up, and your eyebrows will be raised. A simple smile can make someone's day and it’s important to remember this.
  5. Avoid sudden movements. As it can be difficult to be heard clearly when wearing a face covering, it’s important to remain calm and move slowly so you don't startle them.
  6. Use your body language. It’s important to use your body language to show you are calm and in control of the situation. If the client is struggling to hear you, use your body language and movements to show them what you're trying to explain.
  7. Be self-aware. Remember to think about how your communication could be perceived by the clients. Remember, they won’t be able to read your facial expressions or see your mouth move when you speak.
  8. Utilise your imagination. If you're struggling to communicate with your client and their family, utilise what’s around you. Whether that’s typing your message on your phone or writing it on a piece of paper, it might make things more manageable. When caring for younger clients consider drawing funny pictures to keep them engaged and entertained, especially if they are feeling stressed or anxious and unable to hear you.

With all these useful tips, communicating while wearing PPE should become more manageable for yourself, colleagues and clients. If you can think of any other useful tips comment below and we will add them to the list. If you're looking for more guidance, the Royal College of Nursing has produced an essential advice page on PPE and COVID-19.

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