What do you think when you see someone wearing a face mask? Do you feel sorry for them because of what you consider to be paranoia? Do you say a prayer for them because their immune system might be compromised?
Natural curiosity often makes us want to know more about the persons behind the masks. Even more, we now would like to know why some people still wear them. One of the most controversial steps taken to stop COVID was the wearing of masks. Throughout the pandemic, people argued over the effectiveness of masks. With all the controversy and debate about the wearing of masks, it is interesting that they have essentially become a thing of the past. Masks are no longer required in public businesses or on public transportation. The airlines no longer require them. Some medical facilities have posted signs saying that masks are now voluntary. Many believe that COVID is finally behind us but like most viruses, it will always be with us to some degree. Hopefully it is safe to say that the pandemic is over. Even so, some people still wear them. Why?
Whatever your reaction to mask-wearing may be, in the healthcare profession, you are probably better off knowing the reason rather than guessing it. It is necessary for a healthcare provider to ask questions about health conditions and patients are accustomed to that. And being diplomatic and direct is the best way to go. A version of “Have you recently tested positive for COVID?” is a fairly common question. You might even say something like “We don’t require masks. Are you wearing it for a medical condition?” Situations vary and as a healthcare professional, you know your environment and your patients better than anyone else.
Since COVID is firmly planted in our memory banks and will be with us to some degree, it is safe to say that mask wearing is a sensitive topic.
Practice your inquiry, but remember, if you just think that people still wearing masks are foolish or paranoid, that opinion may accidentally find its way into your non-verbal communication. Just a thought.