VANCOUVER -- Being in a hospital during the novel coronavirus pandemic can be a frightening and isolating experience with no visitors allowed and health-care workers wearing many layers of protective gear.

One speech language pathologist at St. Paul's Hospital started a trend to help health-care workers connect with their patients, by attaching a selfie of them smiling – without their personal protective equipment – to their scrubs. 

Gail Gumprich works in the intensive care unit at the Vancouver hospital and she says the experience for patients can be a daunting one, especially because many of them have never seen her face.

"We wear masks and goggles and scrubs in all the units, even when we're not seeing patients," she told CTV News Vancouver. 

"People's spirits are not wonderful when they're sick at the best of times and then to have your loved ones not be able to come in, it's pretty hard."

Since Gumprich attached the selfie to her work gear, she's noticed a big difference with some of her patients. 

"When I walked up to one of my patients who I'd seen several times, but of course she'd never seen my face … she looked at the photo and she smiled and I had never seen her smile and her whole demeanour kind of changed," Gumprich said. "She seemed a bit more at ease."

And there's another unexpected benefit that's emerged, Gumprich said. 

"I can't even recognize my colleagues so there's a side bonus of us being able to recognize each other," she said.

With hundreds of workers in the hospital, Gumprich said it'll take a while to ramp up the project, but many of her colleagues are joining in to help patients feel more comfortable. 

"We're all in it together and we're all supporting each other," she said.  

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim