ER doctors and nurses wear photos of themselves smiling to reassure COVID-19 patients

Visiting sick loved ones confined at the hospital is a common thing for us to do. Amid a pandemic, however, doing so has been prohibited. COVID-19 patients don’t get to see their family and friends during their hospital stay. The only people they see are their ER doctors and nurses, but they’re covered from head-to-toe with protective gear that conceals their faces.

An ER medical worker wearing a face shield.

COVID-19 patients fear for their lives. They contracted a new virus that didn’t exist months ago, and there’s still no vaccine for it. Aside from feeling anxious, they also feel isolated – they don’t see any familiar faces, not even the medical staff who cares for them every day.

San Diego respiratory therapist, Robertino Rodriguez, came up with a solution to that. Last week, he put on his full protective gear as usual before his shift at Scripps Mercy Hospital, but he added a new piece of ‘equipment’.

On Saturday, he took to Instagram to share his idea.

“Yesterday I felt bad for my patients in ER when I would come in the room with my face covered in PPE. A reassuring smile makes a big difference to a scared patient. So today I made a giant laminated badge for my PPE so my patients can see a reassuring and comforting smile.”

ER hospital staff wearing photos of themselves smiling to comfort patients.

In the photo attached to his uniform, Rodriguez dons a suit and tie, wearing a big smile on his face. It seems like a small gesture, but it’s his way of reassuring his patients that there’s a compassionate human under all the suit, mask, and goggles.

Rodriguez spoke about his initiative with HuffPost via email.

“One thing health care workers do to make our patients feel at ease is to reassure them with our smiles but now that we have to wear masks, we are unable to do this,” he wrote. “A smile goes a long way in comforting a scared patient ― bringing some brightness in these dark times.”

ER workers are the frontline heroes of this pandemic.

Not long after he shared the photo, other nurses and doctors began following his example. They taped photos of themselves smiling to their hospital garbs.

Peggy JI, an ER doctor in Los Angeles, used a Polaroid as she didn’t have a pre-printed photo or a color printer. She even added a note written on masking tape that said, “Hi, I’m Peggy! We are here to take care of you!”

“These patients come in with a cough, shortness of breath, or fever and the question on their minds and everyone’s mind is, ‘Do I have COVID?’” Ji told HuffPost. “I can only imagine how intimidating it is seeing a team of nurses, respiratory therapists and doctors entering their room in full PPE gear, on top of everything else.”


Another doctor who works in a pediatric ward at a hospital in São Paulo, Brazil, used a photo of a beloved Disney character. She attached a printed picture of Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” on her suit.

Rodriguez couldn’t be happier seeing that the movement, which he’s calling “Share Your Smile,” is taking off among hospital workers in the US and around the world. But more than that, he’s glad that he’s found a way to communicate his smile to his coronavirus patients.

“People love seeing that you went that extra mile to show them that you care,” he said. “As healthcare professionals, we came into this field because of our compassionate hearts. This shows that.”

In these incredibly trying times, it’s great to see impactful gestures like this being brought to life. Kudos to all these amazing healthcare workers!