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April 29, 2021

Practice Expectation Spotlight

Practice Expectation Spotlight: PPE and Communication

Focus on the impact of PPE on communication and compassion.

Omari Blakes RN wants to connect with each and every one of his clients, no matter how little time he has available. In the past year, he has found this hard at times, particularly with the need to wear masks and protective eyewear (PPE) that partially obscure facial expressions and muffle voices. He is aware that he cannot always understand the facial expressions of his clients nor can they fully see his expressions of empathy. The amount of times that he has had to ask client’s to repeat themselves feels staggering.

Just yesterday, he felt thwarted when he had to ask a client, once again, to keep on her medical mask while asking her to repeat the answer to his assessment. While he was able to get through the assessment, he wonders whether any research has examined the impact of PPE on communication and compassion.

What are some techniques you used recently to connect and demonstrate compassion with clients?

Taking a moment to make eye contact and speak clearly are a couple of the basic, yet important methods when there are other potential barriers to communication. While speaking louder can help, we know that this can come across as yelling. Share that you recognize that speaking through a mask isn’t ideal and may require us to speak a bit slower and louder.

Another tactic is to reduce, as much as possible, any distractions such as looking down during notetaking. Reducing background noise where possible will also help.

Then, consider one study by Costello (2020). During Covid-19 infections, themes emerged in the findings on how clients perceived health care providers to express compassion including:

  • Confidence during care provision
  • Physical presence
  • Listening

What is interesting, yet not surprising, is that clients continue to say that it is not only words demonstrate compassion. These findings fit with our Practice Expectations for RNs. The professional practice expectation includes the responsibilities to:

  • Demonstrate use of current evidence from nursing science, other disciplines and other pertinent sources to improve and enrich your competence in nursing practice
  • Establish and maintain appropriate therapeutic nurse-client relationships.

If you have wondered, like Omari has, about the impact of your compassion during this pandemic, take the time to reflect how you can continue to provide care, not only through your words, but also through your presence and actions. Stay current with the evidence regarding therapeutic relationship development. Through this, you can accomplish two responsibilities in meeting your practice expectations.


CRNM (2018) Practice Expectations for RNs.

Costello, M. (2020). Expressions of compassion during COVID-19 pandemic. International journal of caring sciences, 13(3), 1788-1793.