Provider perceptions of a humanizing intervention for healthcare workers - a survey study of PPE Portraits

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Palliative Care; Graduate School of Nursing; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Equipment and Supplies | Health Services Administration | Health Services Research | Infectious Disease | Palliative Care | Virus Diseases


INTRODUCTION: Reports from patients and healthcare workers dealing with COVID-19 underscore experiences of isolation and fear. Some of this experience results from the distancing effect of masks, gloves, and gowns known as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). One approach to bridging the divide created by PPE is the use of PPE Portraits, postcard-sized pictures affixed to PPE.

OBJECTIVE: Our confidential, email-based survey aimed to quantify provider attitudes towards PPE Portraits.

METHODS: PPE Portraits were piloted at an academic, safety-net health system experiencing a COVID-19 patient surge in April-May 2020, necessitating use of full PPE for COVID-positive patients and surgical masks in all hospital settings. Our survey assessed staff exposure to PPE Portraits, attitudes towards PPE Portraits, and potential program expansion. For staff wearing PPE Portraits, we also assessed perceptions of interactions with other staff and patients/families and impact on personal wellbeing. The University of Massachusetts Medical School's IRB designated this a quality improvement project (#H00020279).

RESULTS: Over half of survey respondents (n=111/173, 64%) reported exposure to PPE Portraits. Attitudes towards PPE Portraits were positive overall, with agreement that PPE Portraits were a good idea (89%), improved provider mood (79%), enhanced perception of team connection (72%) and more positive among those who reported exposure. Open-ended responses (n=41) reinforced positive survey data, and also raised concerns about infection control (n=6), cost/logistics (n=5), and provider vulnerability (n=3).

CONCLUSIONS: Providers report that PPE Portraits may represent a positive, patient-centered idea that helps reassure patients, is well-received by interdisciplinary staff, and may enhance patient and team interactions. Potential adaptations to address concerns include "photo pins," and donor/ patient and family experience department support for costs.

KEY MESSAGE: This article describes a cross-sectional study that investigated provider perceptions on the use of PPE Portraits, an intervention that addresses the barrier to patient-provider connection presented by the use of PPE. The results suggest that implementation of the PPE Portrait Project is feasible, acceptable, and effective.


COVID-19, PPE, PPE Portraits, Personal Protective Equipment, patient-provider connection

DOI of Published Version



Reidy J, Brown-Johnson C, McCool N, Steadman S, Heffernan MB, Nagpal V. Provider perceptions of a humanizing intervention for healthcare workers - a survey study of PPE Portraits. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2020 Sep 7:S0885-3924(20)30726-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2020.08.038. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32911039. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of pain and symptom management

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID