It’s frightening to be a patient, especially now. We turn to our clinicians to deliver the medical care we need and to be our calm, informed leader guiding us through our healthcare challenge. Right now the COVID 19 virus is challenging those very clinicians due to the lack of equipment and overwhelming number of people seeking help in emergency rooms and treatment in intensive care units.
Much is rightfully being written and broadcast about the equipment shortages. But it’s also important to understand the human emotions our medical professionals are experiencing behind the masks they are being forced to re-use throughout the day. They are bravely working the front lines. Here is just a glimpse into what some of them are feeling.
Fear: Nothing in medical school or their years of experience trained doctors for the possibility that one day they might have to choose which patient receives life-saving equipment and which one dies because there are not enough ventilators to meet the demand. Or how to effectively use one ventilator for multiple patients.
Getting affairs in order: Front-line clinicians know they are most at risk for not only contracting the virus, but also having severe symptoms. Many are taking the advice they give to dying patients – get your affairs in order. Wills are being updated. Decisions are being made as to who would raise the children if both parents die. Lists are being prepared that include all the important information needed by the person tasked with caring for the family who is left behind.
Isolation: Currently the best known way to avoid giving the virus to loved ones is to stay away from them. Doctors and nurses are living in cars, tents, garages, home basements, hotels and Airbnb rooms to avoid contact with their family. If they do go home, they immediately wash their clothes and hair, maintain 6 feet of distance from family members and scrub down every surface they touch, and keeping scrubbing until they leave for another shift at the hospital.
Courage: In spite of all these challenges, Dr. de Souza at Brooklyn Hospital, as quoted in the NY Times article, We’re in Disaster Mode, said, “They just take their courage in their hands.” And they keep coming in for 80 – 100 hours work weeks in order to help save lives despite the unprecedented challenges they are facing.