Wearing a mask has been a statement of protecting each other from the spread of COVID-19 over the past three years. In healthcare, wearing a mask made faculty and staff feel like they were being responsible, conscientious, and considerate of patients and peers. For others, it felt like a requirement that infringed upon rights and self-determination. Whichever category you may fall into, we are inching closer towards a world without masks.
“I followed the VUMC guidelines at work, and at home, which made it easy to decide," notes Jim Kendall, LCSW, Manager of Work/Life Connections-EAP. “I haven’t been sick in the past three years, and as someone up in their years, that has been positive although I missed seeing faces. As the world moves way from masking, I will have to determine my own comfort level. That anxiety can be a bit stressful.”
Based upon CDC guidelines, effective 4/11/2023, universal masking of patients, employees, and visitors is no longer required in clinical areas at VUMC. However, individuals may still choose to wear a mask as an option in any area (clinical and non-clinical) at VUMC, and we ask that all VUMC colleagues respect this choice. This might feel like a step towards resuming our lives as we did prior to the pandemic, but it will require a psychological re-adjustment.
Relying on our masks for protection has psychologically impacted many of us, so giving up that security overnight is unrealistic. It will take time for many to adjust and feel comfortable removing their masks all together. Some may even choose to continue wearing a mask even a year from now. That is okay. While we have different opinions, we must show each other respect in our individual decisions and make the choice for ourselves. There's no rush to remove or discard a mask if you feel hesitant going out without one. You are in control of your health and should move at your own pace. If you are ready to shed the mask, enjoy and show off your smile again!
As we move forward, COVID-19 has moved from a pandemic to an endemic. If you are not fully vaccinated, need a booster shot, or want to obtain a COVID-19 test, visit the Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Information page for information.
If you are struggling with anxiety or stress over these lifestyle changes, please call Work/Life Connections-EAP at 615-936-1327 to schedule an appointment with one of our EAP Clinical Counselors.