How do we show a human touch without touching? How can we help our patients feel comfortable without actual contact? These may sound like Zen kōans or updated lyrics from an old folk song, but we are giving these questions a lot of thought lately. There’s one answer we discovered that we hadn’t expected: We were in the operating room recently doing a “dry run” to rehearse all of the new protocols and
procedures and our volunteer patient (she
didn’t actually have anesthesia or surgery) offered valuable feedback. As she lay on the operating table, we asked how she was doing. She replied “I’m surprised that I feel so relaxed. I actually feel more comfortable and safer here than I do going to the grocery store. Here I know everything is absolutely clean, and everyone’s job is to keep me safe.”
A personal touch in an impersonal time
It’s a tall order to convey warmth and positivity behind layers of masks and what looks and feels like hazmat gear, but we do have a few tactics. Unexpectedly, doing Zoom consultations can make the virtual meeting more personal than the in-person one because it gives us a chance to take off the mask. The patient feels like they know our faces, and vice -versa, so when they arrive for their clinic appointment it’s almost like they are an established patient. Also, because a lot of the patients we are seeing right now are those who had to be postponed when the clinic had to close, with them it feels more like reuniting with old friends than business as usual. What’s hard is meeting someone for the first time when you’re both masked, and trying to establish trust and rapport. But even then, there’s a sense of togetherness from going through this bizarre experience simultaneously, if not truly together.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised by the comment our “patient” made, because as a team of medical professionals, comforting is what we do, and safety has always been our top priority. Before focusing exclusively on cosmetic plastic surgery, each of us has spent time at the bedsides of the sick and suffering. So as we implement all of the latest science-based procedures for patient safety during the COVID-19 “new normal,” we keep foremost in mind that we are practitioners of the healing arts.