As restrictions are slowly being eased in Canberra’s hospitals, the masks are coming off for many of the hard-working doctors and nurses at the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But beneath many of the masked men are moustaches that have, in some cases, mysteriously appeared as a means of showing solidarity while bringing a smile to many during the daily rounds.
Some of the hip, hairy upper lips had high hopes of being twirled and styled, but mostly the moustaches became straight-shooters while also being a talking point at home and work.
The men dubbed it MOVID.
Some went for the Tom Selleck 1980s look, others had handlebars while all were happy to decorate their smile with some hairstyle.
Some of the nurses even attracted the attention of The Today Show.
A registered nurse at Canberra Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) Tom Jeffrey told Region Media the moustaches began appearing at the end of May. He tried to cite colleague Tristan Checkley as the ring-leader, but the “we’re all in this together” theme became apparent and the moustaches became more prominent.
But short of letting the truth get in the way of a good moustache, the reality was that many of the men were growing beards, but their masks were not fitting properly.
“I was thinking about getting rid of mine, but pretty soon there were about 10 to 12 nurses and doctors in the ICU and allied health sections who got on board with it all,” Tom said.
“It was kind of impromptu to start off with.”
Senior ICU nurse Matt Ensor said he was trying to go for the classic Tom Selleck/Magnum PI look.
“I’m not quite sure where it originated, but with the whole coronavirus thing happening, there were quite a few bearded men around the unit,” Matt said.
“To fit the appropriate masks on, we had to make a bit of a trim so instead of shaving the whole thing off, we decided to leave a bit of fuzz on the top lip and MOVID became a thing.
“There are various stages of moustaches going around the unit. Some people are naturally gifted with growing facial hair but we encourage everyone to give it a go – no judgment here.”
Tom said the ‘mo men’ come in all shapes and sizes.
“One of the wardsmen, his moustache got to the point where he could twist it out, but his partner didn’t really like it, so that’s gone now. That’s kind of been the tipping point to whether the mo stays or goes,” he said.
“Seven weeks ago was the peak of the COVID for us and now it’s almost starting to feel a bit more like business as usual. But I think the teamwork aspect of it has been outstanding. There’s been this community spirit between all areas – the doctors, the nurses, allied health – we’ve all had to look out for each other.”
Tom said there have also been initiatives within the teams to ensure everyone was coping with the additional challenges of working in a COVID-19 environment.
“During COVID, there’s been the usual health support available for us, and then initiatives like this that is a good-natured way of talking about the pandemic,” he said.
Matt said wearing a moustache has been a good way to deal with the pressures of the pandemic.
“Movember is quite a ways off. It’s not November yet but we decided it was more of a team bonding experience for us and standing in solidarity in these troubled times.
“We’re very grateful with how the situation’s gone in Australia. Around the time this started, there was a lot of anxiety with what was coming our way,” Matt said.
“The healthcare system’s been under a bit of pressure lately and we wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces and wearing a moustache was a good way to do it.”