VICTORIA -- The nursing team at Victoria Hospice is connecting with patients and families in a new way during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The clinical team started wearing “smile buttons” on Tuesday so that patients can see the smiles behind their masks.

Nurses at hospice say it has been a challenging time to deliver palliative care during the pandemic with all the necessary safety precautions in place to protect patients, their loved ones and other care givers.

“Hospice nurses are a deeply caring and compassionate bunch,” said Jen Cooper, manager of communications and marketing for Victoria Hospice. “They are used to hugging and taking the time to truly connect with patients and families … The masks have been a barrier to that connection.”

With that in mind, some staff from the non-clinical team who had been working from home came up with the idea to do something meaningful that would help keep that connection between the frontline nurses and the ones they were caring for.

Using an internal Facebook group that keeps all the team members connected, they asked if it would help the nurses to have smile buttons made.

“I think it’s bringing us closer to our patients”, says Jill Sartorio, nurse leader at Victoria Hospice. “We’re smiling, but the patients are missing something and we are missing something. (Now), they can see who we are under the mask and that we do care still.”

“My patient today really liked it,” said Susan Coward, another longtime nurse at the facility. “She says she does miss my smile, but she said I have beautiful eyes”.

“I think it’s helping me personally because I see other nurses with their smiling face and it’s just kind of reassuring to me as a nurse to see all these smiling faces looking back at me rather than the masks,” Coward added.

Victoria Hospice is a registered charity that has provided end-of-life care focused on palliative treatment since 1980.

The nurses, counsellors, spiritual caregivers, physicians and more than 300 trained volunteers provide comfort for patients and support for their families during progressive and life-limiting illness.

They offer care in patients’ homes or in the 17-bed in-patient unit located on the grounds of Royal Jubilee Hospital.

Wearing their hearts on their sleeves and smiles on their uniforms, these Victoria Hospice nurses can continue to show compassion to patients through their smile buttons, something they hope will catch on outside of the hospice walls.