Tag is exactly muffled
2021-01-12In my line of work, which is construction management and execution, communication is key. Often, this begins and ends with emails, phone calls, and the occasional zoom chat to set a project up. However, once work commences, field superintendents meet daily with clients to discuss progress, delays, opportunities for improvement, and at times, complaining. Morning meetings are at the heart of the daily communications, and have always taken place at 7:30 am, with fifteen to twenty people present. From January 2020 thru the middle of March 2020, morning meeting went as they had in the past. At times, with so many in the room, expressing their ideas, it can be difficult to keep track of what is being talked about. In my role, I attend one or more of these meetings, at different jobsites, throughout the week. As Covid safety precautions took hold towards the end of March, I noticed that the meetings I attended were quieter. This was partially due to masks being worn. Whenever someone chose to speak, their voice, which had been loud a week or so prior, was now muffled and subdued. Additionally, people spoke no more than was necessary, the meetings were shorter than they had been. Gradually, power points were introduced on a screen each day so that talking was not necessary. Instead, the bosses laid out the schedule, expectations, and those in the room simply took notes. By the end of April, the morning meeting changed over to Zoom Chat, with everyone in their office, staring at a screen which displayed those same power points, saying very little or nothing at all. By this point, with social distancing in full-force, there was no need to speak. Notes were made by a Project Engineer containing key points and emailed to attendees after the conclusion of the daily Zoom. Suddenly, there was no face to face conversation, fewer phone calls, and increased emails. With masks across our faces, everyone continued their work in an eerie silence. The robust workplace, full of ideas and plans which must be heard, faded into blank stares saying nothing. With the New Year, I did not expect any change. It would be difficult to say when practices that existed only a year ago might return. This morning, I logged into Zoom for a pre-construction meeting, I was met with the same silence I heard just before the Thanksgiving holiday.
2020-08-08In March of 2020 I made the decision to leave Active Duty Army and pursue a new career in the civilian world. I submitted my resignation and began a six month process to transition out. It was immediately after this drastic step that the effects of COVID-19 on our daily lives began. My state (Maryland) shut down, and my mission essential job that I was in the process of leaving required me to pick up the extra work from at-risk employees. The applications to different government agencies that I had submitted were placed on hold due to the inability of those agencies to conduct in-person events. With less time available, my ability to apply for more jobs was also limited. After a delay of four months, and with only a few more to go before inevitable unemployment, agencies slowly began reinstating their hiring processes. It was at this time that the sensory impacts of a COVID-19 hiring market began to show. Most smaller agencies resorted to telephonic interviews or at the most, video conference calls. Those that did ask for an in-person interview were still heavily controlled with COVID-19 risk mitigation practices. Regardless of the medium enacted, the effects on the senses were the same. Visual senses not withstanding (the inability to see my interviewer was disconcerting, but at least I got to wear jeans), the tactile and auditory senses were also greatly impacted. In every interview conducted pre-COVID, the procedures consisted of shaking hands at the beginning of an interview (i.e. establishing trust through that time-worn gesture), sitting in close proximity to an interviewer with whom you are able to hear clearly, and who can hear you clearly, and in whom you can read facial expressions indicating when you may have said too much or not enough. The interview would then be over and you would seal that act through a final handshake and a smile. None of these basic tenants of interviews occur during a COVID-19 mitigated interview. In my first interview with a federal law enforcement agency, my interview panel and myself were required to wear masks, I was welcomed into the room without any of the standard greetings (handshakes and smiles) and seated behind a plexiglass barrier 8-10 feet from any of the interviewers. Not only did the interview lack the physical interaction that ceremonially marks the beginning and end of the interview, but due to masks, the conduct of the interview was also strained. Questions from interviewers were difficult to hear and understand due to the distance, glass, and masks, therefore requiring awkward repetitions which cast doubt on my competence and confidence. My responses were likewise muffled, which led to doubts as to whether my answers were fully understood by the interviewers. Both assaults on the auditory ability and tactile senses taken for granted in a pre-COVID world lead to an autocatalytic attack on my nerves. The lack of hearing and the absence of a reassuring touch eroded any confidence I may have had going into the interview that would have otherwise remained until I left. COVID-19 mitigation measures reduced what is normally a very personal interaction between human beings to a robotic and numbing experience lacking in all the sensory elements that enables the humanity of an interview. I conducted six more interviews in similar limited sensory manners, eventually evolving my expectations and re-learning a process before finally securing a position.
2020-10-15COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our lives, one that I would have never thought was using a mask in public. I began my Air Force career as a surgical technician in 1992. Wearing a mask was part of the job. The mask was worn to protect the patients, we did not want to breathe germs onto the surgical site. It had secondary a secondary purpose as well, to protect us from the patients' bodily fluids. Though talking was allowed in the surgical suite it was limited and the distance between the team was usually less than a few feet. We also learned to use hand gestures to communicate with each other, for instance if a surgeon was suturing and wanted us to cut the suture she or she would use the index and middle fingers to mimic scissors cutting. In 2008 found myself in Iraq, this time I had to shield my face not because I was in an operating room but because the sand storms. The mask allowed me to venture outside the facilities for limited periods of time during the storms. As medical professionals, depending on where you work, the use of masks is not something new. What is new is that now the patients are wearing masks. At first glance this might not seem like much of an issue, occasionally patients would have to wear masks as well. As most of us have noticed, communication has been hampered with the use of masks. It is harder to here, muffled voices, it is harder to differentiate between similar words/sounds, and we cannot use the use or other senses to assist us such as sight. In addition patients whom might have difficulty breathing have a harder times breathing by wearing masks. It is imperative the communication between the patient and a clinician is flawless. If hearing is impaired or words are mistaken the consequences can be deadly. COVID-19 Has caused us to slow things down even further, we must double check and sometimes triple check to make sure we collected the correct information. We need to listen to what they are saying without the aid of their faces. Deaths caused by medical errors are a major concern for all, now add a barrier that is foreign to most patients and those errors can become even more common. Now I find myself in Biloxi, MS and in some strange way everyone became an OR Tech, we are all wearing masks. On a serious note, may we all learn and grow from this experience and not let it go to waste.