Face masks are part of the patient experience in a COVID-19 world. But this is the time to stress the importance of eye contact as well as verbal communication skills with every team member who comes in contact with patients.
The following is an experience shared with me by a trained mystery shopper.
My doctor ordered blood work so I went into the clinic yesterday to get it drawn. I wore a mask and so did the phlebotomist. I was impressed at first because I could check in from my car and wait until they registered me to avoid any unnecessary exposure while I waited. When they were ready, they sent me a text. The impressive stopped there though.
I walked in, wearing my mask, signed a clipboard with my name and sat down. When the phlebotomist came into the room, she was wearing a mask as well. She never looked at me, looked at the clipboard and said, “Let’s go.” Took me to the draw room, took my paper lab order and turned her back to me to work on the computer. The only interaction after that was to ask, “Do you have your insurance card?” I gave it to her, and again, she took it without looking at me, and turned to finish the computer entry.
For 10 minutes I just sat there until she turned around and asked, “Which arm?” She drew my blood, then showed me the label on the tube and asked, “Is this you?” I said yes, and then she said, “Okay, thanks. We’re done.” It was then that she finally looked at me. At the end.
That’s what I love and hate about these masks. The eyes tell so much about a person and right now a main way to connect with people. We can’t see the smile or facial expression. I missed the connection with this person. Granted it was just a 10-minute blood draw, but these are scary times and this is just tough stuff. I just hope we don’t lose sight of the connection we have and need with people through all of this. Especially when these masks are probably here to stay for a while. I just had to share this with you.
Throughout the whole experience, I kept thinking, if I was mystery shopping this place, my evaluation of the phlebotomist and the whole experience would have been really negative.
If this were one of your staff, you would want to know about this experience. Don’t wait for a negative survey. Make rounds. Observe, coach and give feedback. A mask is for protection, not something to hide behind.