Newswise — Children and their families who come to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt for their care are used to seeing the friendly faces and smiles of staff, nurses and doctors. 

When COVID-19 cases began rising in Nashville, masking became a regular part of life across Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital as one of several public health safety measures to protect employees and patients from potential COVID-19 exposure. 

Children’s Hospital decided to get creative to ensure that the 1,700 children and families who visit the hospital and clinics each day can see that the same friendly faces they’ve always known still exist behind the masks. 

And so was born the Button Project, spearheaded by the Children’s Hospital Family Resource Center (FRC).  

Working with the VUMC Badge Office, the Family Resource Center is identifying teams and their staff across Children’s Hospital that would like a photo button of their faces to wear visibly on their shirts for patients to see. 

“When we were asked to take the lead on this project, I immediately said, ‘yes,’” said Adelaide Vienneau, director of the FRC. “The FRC team likes finding solutions for staff and providing resources to assist patients and families in having the best possible experience during their health care visit. We are delighted with the anecdotal comments on how the photo buttons have been well-received.” 

The goal of the Button Project is to eliminate or reduce a level of fear and anxiety for patients who find comfort in seeing the smiling faces of their providers and health care team members. With the new safety policies around COVID-19, such as mask wearing, this is a strategy to accomplish that goal, Vienneau said. 

To distribute buttons, the FRC team connects with unit/clinic leaders and administrative directors who can gauge interest among their teams and sign up for a button using a provided RedCap link. The buttons are intended for staff that most often interact with patients.

So far more than 150 buttons have been distributed to various teams across Children’s Hospital, including to Surgical Services. 

Team members there were concerned that having their faces covered by a mask would add unnecessary stress. 

“We have a great team of professionals who continue to put patients’ and families’ emotional and personal safety first. They have a special gift for caring for children through their expressions and verbal commun- ication as they serve them in the perioperative setting,” said Barb Shultz, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, administrative director of Surgical Services. 

“Masks can be scary for some children depending on their developmental stage. Our goal is to ensure that patients and families feel safe during their stay, so the staff decided to find a creative way to wear colorful, fun masks and personalized buttons so everyone could see their faces. I am so proud of them. We have a great team of professional nurses who are continually seeking out opportunities to help children and their families.” 

Cutline: The Button Project at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt helps patients and families see the faces under the masks of their care providers. Here, Cory Smeltzer, RN, left, Charlaysia Rucker and Laura Bauchiero, RN, CPN, show off their buttons.