Nurse creates clear surgical mask to improve communication with patients


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!

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10 Responses to Nurse creates clear surgical mask to improve communication with patients

  1. Bruce Hahne

    This is a beautiful idea by my wife. I hope it will revolutionize the world of patient care.

  2. HeywoodJablome

    Freakin’ creepy.

  3. kmchugh

    I see a few problems. First, look at the picture. Rather than comforting, I think a lot of patients, particularly small children, mentally challenged, and anyone with a fear of clowns would find that a little unnerving. Now add to that the fogginess that accompanies first waking from anesthesia, and I can easily see patients being terrified. Next, that’s a non-porous plastic window. I wear glasses, and that becomes nothing more that a channel pushing every exhalation straight up my face. I’d never see anything but fog. Finally, it is inevitable that people will cough, sneeze, and otherwise have things flying out of their mouths during surgery. It’s not too hard to imagine how disgusting these masks could look on very short order. As a CRNA, I’d NEVER wear that in the operating room.

  4. Sally Mathews

    This is AWESOME! Tell me how I can help! This is not only helpful to patients but to the communication with the healthcare team! It could also potentially decrease medical errors! Great job!

  5. grammazee

    Love the concept, however I have difficulty with the image posted with this article. The mask seems to frame the mouth, which becomes a focal point, and although the person wearing the mask has a beautiful smile, the image is a bit creepy. I think that if the blue mask portion was replaced with more of a flesh tone material, presentation might be more appealing.

  6. LindaG1973

    Ok, so perhaps this is not necessary in an everyday normal hospital environment. I totally agree that this is a much needed item if you are working with a deaf or hard of hearing patient. I also think it would be great for dealing with elderly patients or residents in nursing homes. My mother lives in a nursing home and is deaf without her hearing aids. She lost one in the hospital a few months ago and now only has one. Most of the nurses wear a mask all day. Yesterday a med nurse with a mask on came in and was telling my mom the meds she was handing her. My mom is a great lip reader, but when she does not hear well and can’t read your lips, she will make silly imitative, and sometimes mocking sounds to hide that she did not hear. It makes her look stupid and I know she gets embarrassed. I have witnessed this so many times in so many different situations. I told the nurse to speak on her left side and explained that she is missing her hearing aid in the right ear. She was very appreciative of me telling her. The minute she did that, my mom responded appropriately. I am not a nurse, but when I read this and the comments that were posted I had to respond. I work in a school for the deaf, had a deaf aunt and uncle who had horrible experiences in hospitals. The needed sign language interpreters to truly have clear communication. I also have an adult deaf son. For deaf who use American Sign Language, please know that English is not a their first language. A sign language interpreter is a must for explaining detailed procedures or diagnosis and so on. But that is another story for another time.

    Nursing homes have many residents who are not able to hear well. I guess because I have had deafness around me all my life, I can pick out those who are struggling to hear. So many will not tell you they can’t hear. Sadly, like my mom, she can’t remember to tell you she can’t hear. In nursing homes or in certain situations where it is known that a patient is deaf or hard of hearing, these masks would be great! I do wonder however, if the clear spot would get sweaty. I think it’s a great idea and should be pursued and I will support this endeavor. In the meantime, please know that no amount of talking loud or near the ear of a deaf person is going work. With a hard of hearing person with a hearing aid it probably would. If they wear a hearing aid, talk at normal tones close to them. They always, definitely need direct eye contact and an unobstructed view of your face/mouth. I hope this idea takes off! Thank you for letting me have input.

  7. i.victoria

    I think your new FaceView mask is great!!!

  8. reliefnurse

    From a developmental perspective, this would work very well for practitioners working in the pediatric setting, especially with patients who are in long-term isolation like Severe Combined Immunodeficiency patients, who are often infant and need non verbals to develop language and communication skills.

  9. suziqr1

    I am from the UK and work in the Ophthalmic operating theatre where the surgery carried out is mostly done under local anaesthetic. We have clear visors that can be used in theatre while carrying out surgery however they do not cover the mouth to help reduce the risk of infection in the theatre environment. I completed a piece of work as part of my University course stating that clear face masks would help to communicate with patients who are deaf and also help prevent infection.

    I think this clear face mask is an absolutely fantastic idea however in some respects the design is is a little scary and I agree with a couple of comments about the non-porous material covering the mouth and saliva and mucous escaping from the nose and mouth would not be a “good look” on the clear material. However, how long would the mask be worn in your particular area? Would you only wear these when communicating with patients or staff who are deaf? these are just some of the questions that actually make the comments about saliva and mucous deposits on the masks irrelevant.

    Anyway good luck with this and congratulations on a superb idea and I hope they are accepted by the FDA


  10. powchutu

    For the love of God, please hire interpreters! Stop making excuses to avoid paying for interpreters for the deaf!