• Article
  • May 19 2021

Young Patients at Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center See Smiling Faces Despite Masks

Barnstable Brown Diabetes Clinic uses picture pins so the children know what their caretaker looks like behind the masks. L-R Angela Hepner, Brooke Combs, Shannon O'Mara, Shana Atanga, Brianna Romano, Keila Guy. Mark Cornelison | UK photo

The past year has been filled with new routines, new rules, and new fears for many people as the world has navigated the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. During this time staff members at UK HealthCare’s Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center (BBDC) found a unique way to ease some anxiety as young patients and their families returned to in-person clinic visits.

“No patient here is just a number or diagnosis, but an individual,” said Shannon O’Mara, nurse manager and pediatric endocrine nurse at BBDC. It is with that mindset that Angela Hepner, a pediatric diabetes educator, thought of a way to help identify each staff member and decrease anxiety as everyone returned to a clinic setting after months of telehealth. The idea – giant buttons featuring the smiling faces of the staff and health care providers underneath the mask and other personal protective equipment (PPE) which can decrease nonverbal communication and interaction with the patients and families.

“We talk with many of our families over the phone several times between clinic visits and get to know them very well. Ensuring they are able to see our face closes the loop to know who is helping care for their child,” said O’Mara.

O’Mara says the buttons have not only been helpful for new patients during this time but as well as the patients and families they’ve been following for years, “When they come for appointments it is more than just a visit about a diagnosis, it is an investment in each family’s story. After a year of isolation and returning to a clinic setting, we want to ensure our patients know and remember who they are talking and interacting with. With most of our faces covered and not seeing them in so long the buttons help remind patients and families of the relationships established pre-COVID.”

Jason Taylor, clinic administrator at BBDC, says families often express how unique and thoughtful the buttons are when their child comes in for a clinic visit. “These buttons are an excellent example of being patient-centered and having a focus on the quality of care that we are aiming to provide," Taylor said. "Our team is always thinking about the perspective of the children and families and that we serve. This is just one example of the amazing work they do every day.  We are so thankful that they are on the Barnstable Brown team and are proud to call them colleagues.”