How has this situation affected your relationship with your colleagues?
This situation has pulled us together. There is a great deal of communication between all of us, and with our leadership team. We are doing planning together, and we are supporting each other. One of my colleagues, who was aware of this interview, asked me to convey that this situation has created a sense of unity not only between physicians and other physicians but among all disciplines. For example, nurses and doctors are working together much more closely than before. Now we are all a big team and it is having very positive effects.
How has this situation affected you and your colleagues personally?
One of my colleagues told me that the first time she put on the N95 mask, and goggles and a gown, it was scary. She had only ever seen this in connection with tuberculosis cases. The fact that we had to do this made the implications of this illness sink in and get more real for her. When patients are coughing or have fever, I am scared in a different way than I have been in the past. Obviously, I have taken care of very sick patients in the course of my career, but the implications of these symptoms are different.
On a personal level, this is a difficult and strange juxtaposition. I have a 4-year-old child. My husband is currently working from home and taking care of my child. I am also pregnant. I have not done inpatient medicine or ob/gyn for 5 years, but I would step up and help my team, except that I don’t feel I can risk that type of exposure. There are several pregnant residents and some residents with serious health concerns, and we are keeping them out of the hospital as well. I feel that I would really want to be doing more to help out in person to take the burden off those on inpatient units, and this is difficult for me.
What do you and your colleagues do for self-care?
We do small things, since larger self-care activities aren’t realistic right now. We just got an app called Headspace, which is being offered free to healthcare providers to teach meditation and relaxation.
A yoga instructor has offered a free session via video to our staff in yoga breathing and meditation as well. Some of my coworkers and I watch mindless television shows when we can; particularly something non-medical and unrelated to COVID-19. My friends and I check in with each other regularly, which provides comfort and a sense of community, since the necessary isolation is very hard.
This virus has sent shockwaves through the world in general and the medical community in particular. We are still reeling from it and adjusting to it on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis as the situation changes and evolves. I encourage readers to reach out for support from friends, family, coworkers and superiors, and lend your support as well. Working as a team and broader community is our best way to meet the challenges of this very difficult situation.
- Dewey C, Hingle S, Goelz E, Linzer M. Supporting Clinicians During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Ann Intern Med. 2020 Mar 20. [Epub ahead of print]. Available at: https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2763592/supporting-clinicians-during-covid-19-pandemic. Accessed: April 7, 2020.
- Kamal R, Kurani N, McDermot D, Cox C. How prepared is the US to respond to COVID-10 relative to other countries? Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker. Chart Collection, Quality of Care. March 27, 2020. Available at: https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/how-prepared-is-the-us-to-respond-to-covid-19-relative-to-other-countries/#item-start. Accessed: March 28, 2020.