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Nurse creates clear surgical mask to improve communication with patients

SCRUBS,By:,2017-04-24

More than 30 years ago, registered nurse Jeanne Hahne came up with the idea for a clear surgical face mask she could use to better communicate with her patients. Today, she has made that idea a reality known as the FaceView Mask, and it may soon be coming to a hospital near you.

Bringing a new spin to a tool many nurses use every day, the FaceView Mask features a clear window allowing patients to see more of the face of their caregiver. Hahne says this improves communication and care.

“I was working in a burn unit and I was covered head to toe. I was trying to create a therapeutic bond with the patient; then I would come back the next day and they wouldn’t even recognize me,” Hahne said during a phone interview with Scrubs magazine. “And I was trying to make a connection with them—that’s where the idea came about.”

Improving Communication

Hahne has a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing and wrote about communication between the clinician and the patient as part of her thesis topic. This included her vision of a clear mask. She says that because the mask picks up more nonverbal communication, the patient feels better cared for.

“You want the clinical expertise, of course, but you also want to know that you are not a science project,” she said.

Hahne points out that the number one cause of medical errors is miscommunication, and on her website she writes about how the mask may be able to help:

The FaceView Mask is important for communication, and for seeing the entire facial expression, especially a reassuring smile. It means reading lips for the deaf and the elderly… The FaceView Mask has the potential to reduce errors and promote better patient outcomes.

Better Communication with the Deaf

The clear mask also is designed to enable lip-reading for deaf patients.

Stacey Carroll, PhD, ANP-BC, is Advocacy Chair for the Association of Medical Professionals With Hearing Losses, and has worked with Hahne on crafting the final design of the mask to meet the needs of the group’s users. “I initially became interested in a see-through surgical mask when I realized that I, as a nurse practitioner who is deaf, could not lipread my peers who were wearing masks,” she said. “I also was a patient and could not lipread my providers, which was scary to me.”

Carroll also said she was excited about the mask because of the additional uses she could see for it. “I began to think about all the ways in which the mask could be helpful, including when children go to the dentist, so children could see facial expressions and be less frightened,” she said.

What Other Nurses Are Saying

Barbara DeBaun, RN, MSN, CIC, spent most of her career in infection prevention and has become a strong supporter of the FaceView Mask.

“Face masks that are currently on the market make it impossible to see the mouth or expression of the wearer,” DeBaun said. “The masks compromise the effectiveness of communication, which is vital to patient safety. FaceView is an innovative, compassionate and highly exciting solution to providing an alternative to current masks that hide smiles and make it impossible to read lips.”

Hahne says that DeBaun and Carroll have been very inspirational throughout the process of getting the product ready.

What’s Your Inspiration?

Another aspect of Hahne’s story is the time and energy she put into making her concept a reality, and she wants to help other nurses do the same. She says she has learned a lot through the process, particularly by surrounding herself with a supportive and helpful team.

“Once I get my product on the market, I’ll be helping other medical professionals with their ideas,” she said. “Overall, I really want to make a difference in the world and help people.”

Using Crowdfunding to Bring the Idea to Life

While Hahne has been working on the idea for quite a while, she is currently in the final stages of bringing the new surgical mask to hospitals. She has turned to crowdfunding to ask for a little help to raise funds for the final stages of development and testing, and has set up a campaign on Indiegogo.

The initial version of the mask is not yet ready for surgical use as it needs FDA approval, which will come after the fundraising campaign. Hahne is looking to raise $50,000 for these final steps, and any money raised in excess of that goal will be used to develop even more models of the mask, including smaller sizes for children.

Hahne says her goal is to have a surgical version of the FaceView Mask ready by May 2015.

Nurses, what do you think of the FaceView Mask? Do you think it could help improve communication between nurses and patients? Share your thoughts in the comments below!