Since 15 June 2020, all hospital staff were mandated by the government to wear a facemask in hospital and it looks like they will remain a permanent feature in healthcare for the foreseeable future. There is a significant body of research about the plethora of adverse effects that wearing masks can have on verbal communication  and we have evidence that effective communication is a common root cause of clinical error that affects patient safety . However, despite the mounting evidence about the detrimental effects, there is little out there in the way of solutions to these problems.
The aim of the study was to develop an interactive virtual workshop aims to improve the verbal communication of healthcare staff whilst wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
We delivered 14 workshops from March 2021 to May 2021 to 80 participants. First, we discussed the barriers that healthcare workers are up against when they are working in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and then speak about vocal anatomy and how speech is created. The workshop then focusses on how to make speech clearer whilst also advising healthcare staff on how to look after their voice. To ensure the workshop is interactive, there are a number of exercises that the participants perform and videos of COVID cardiac arrest simulations are used to discuss the potential speech and communication errors in PPE which could affect patient safety in an emergency. Finally, we also incorporated a patient’s perspective in designing this course. They offered very helpful suggestions regarding verbal and non-verbal communication when communicating with patients in PPE, which are often overlooked by healthcare professionals but immensely valuable to improve patients’ and staff experience.
We invited hospital departments to book on to the virtual training and collected electronic feedback from participants. As a result of this feedback, we hope to be able to provide face-to-face training in the future and incorporate simulation in the workshops so that participants can practice what they have learnt with higher fidelity and we are better able to understand how the added burden of cognitive bandwidth will influence people’s communication.
John: 60 Talking Under Cover: A Virtual Workshop to Improve Communication in PPE
Mheidly N, Fares MY, Zalzale H, et al.Effect of face masks on interpersonal communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. Front Public Health. 2020;8:582191.
Clapper TC, Ching K.Debunking the myth that the majority of medical errors are attributed to communication. Med Educ.2020;54:74–81.
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