‘Button Project’ allows children to see the smiling faces behind the masks at children’s hospitals

Being in a hospital is already intimidating enough and masks can make the situation even more stressful, especially for children. So when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made face masks a regular part of life, staff at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt decided to get creative.

The Children’s Hospital Family Resource Center (FRC) implemented the Button Project to ensure that children and their families who visit the hospital and clinics can see the same friendly faces of staff, nurses and doctors.

Working with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Badge Office, the Family Resource Center is making photo buttons of team members’ faces that they can wear for their young 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, in a statement. “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,” she said.

The goal of the project is to reduce the level of anxiety and fear that children may experience when in an unfamiliar environment, with unfamiliar people. Child patients take comfort in seeing a friendly smile on health care team members’ faces, and the Button Project is a strategy to accomplish that goal.

“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,” said Barb Shultz, administrative director of surgical services.

So far, more than 150 badges have been distributed to various teams across Children’s Hospital.

But, the positive influence of the project doesn’t end there: Medical staff at other hospitals across the country have implemented their own button projects.

Providers and staff at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City are also wearing buttons with their smiling faces. Worn outside each member’s isolation gown or mask, the buttons reassure patients that the same compassion and care still exist underneath.

“As an institution, we want our patients to understand that there are caring, kind staff members behind the masks we are wearing,” read a statement from Children’s Mercy. “We also want to tell patients that even when their mouth is covered, their eyes will show. We can look at their eyes and know they might be feeling, happy sad, confused or worried. We want kids to talk with us about how they are feeling and what questions they have.”