Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, children's hospitals have found innovative ways to provide care for patients and their families amid heightened safety measures. For Children's Health in Dallas, it's meant finding a way to use an important—if not medically necessary—tool to improve the patient experience.
"It's hard for children and their families to see a smile from behind the mask—we felt strongly that we needed to find some way to show the caregiver's whole face," says Keri Kaiser, senior vice president, marketing and communications, chief marketing officer and chief experience officer for Children's Health. "The love, warmth and caring are still there, but it's just harder sometimes to make that connection."
Kaiser says that very sentiment drove Children's Health staff members to develop new ideas to show off their smiles. In the end, it was a concept seen all over the football fields of Texas—where parents proudly wear buttons displaying the pictures of their high school athlete children—that checked all the boxes for the hospital:
- Safety. Buttons worn on a shirt or jacket can easily be wiped clean and are available with magnetic fasteners for staff where a traditional pin closure might pose a safety risk.
- Durability. Plastic buttons stand up to repeated cleanings with strong disinfectants and are designed for daily wear.
- Convenience. Staff members can easily add or remove the buttons from their work clothes as needed.
As an added benefit, Children's Health was also able to support its community with the button project. During a time when many high school sports have been suspended, the hospital's production of more than 2,500 buttons was a welcome boost for local vendors who normally fill orders for the sports teams, according to Kaiser.
Buttons boost staff morale, too
Though the primary goal of the smile buttons is to enhance the patient and family experience at Children's Health, its staff members are enjoying them as well. Kaiser says employees across the organization were excited to don the buttons.
"It was hurting their hearts that patients and families weren't able to see their love," Kaiser says. "They love having their buttons—they love that people can see their smiles and that they can see the smiles of their colleagues."
Children's reactions shine through their masks
Feedback on the buttons from patients and their families has been overwhelmingly positive, Kaiser says. She adds that many parents have thanked Children's Health for enabling them to see their caregivers' smiles, and some have posted pictures of the smile buttons on their social media feeds.
But she says the best reactions can be seen on the faces of the children—even from behind their own masks.
"You see the little ones, and you can tell through the crinkles in their eyes that they have a great big smile," Kaiser says. "You see them point to the button or reach out and touch it, and you can see they're feeling more comfortable."