On Being a Doctor and a Human in the Pandemic: Connection and Vulnerability

By Amy Blair

With each passing 24 hours, my roles of physician and physician educator and mother (and human of the planet Earth) have been taxed in complex ways. The problem-solving demands are intense and the solutions often feeble, weakened by uncertainty, if not paralyzed. It feels as if the rug were pulled out from under my stable pillar of work-life balance and I teeter and totter as the emails, announcements, protocols, and crash courses in new technologies try to blow me over each day. It is a new flavor of exhausting. A sympathetic overload (as in autonomic nervous system).

Of course, my patients are facing new challenges for which there is little precedent and for which they have few relevant experiences to draw on. They face many pressures such as a devastating loss of income from which the more privileged are insulated. Thus, they can underreact and indulge denial rather than think like the epidemiologists we would have them be.

For instance, I accompanied one of my patients as she tried to come to terms with her COVID19 positive test and the need for home quarantine. She asked me how she could return to work at a downtown office, needing the income.  I explained the CDC guidelines which include quarantine for 7 days. Then she asked “…could I still do my (GrubHub) food delivery?“Read More »

Look for the Helpers

by Justin Triemstra

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,

my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.

You will always find people who are helping.’”

                                                                                                                                                   -Fred Rogers

 

Scary things in the news…

Look for the helpers…

You will always find people who are helping…

These 3 phrases could not be more descriptive of our current world, nation, state, city, and health systems. We have all seen the scary things in the news over the past 3 months and have watched our colleagues care for the ill and vulnerable who have been affected by this pandemic. At first, it seemed like a distant threat, yet, we all knew it would come to our institutions in time.

New York City, Seattle, New Orleans, Detroit, and countless other cities have already seen the waves this pandemic can bring to a community. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the pandemic has now reached our doorstep. Our frontline colleagues have begun to see the first set of ripples, and now, we all wait for the waves that may follow.

This period of waiting brings out emotions of nervousness of what is to come, worry about whether we as health care providers will get infected or even worse, bring it home to our loved ones, or fear over the possible lack and rationing of PPE.

Nonetheless, we know our helpers have begun helping. Nurses. Physicians. Advanced Practice Providers. Respiratory therapists. Physical Therapists. Occupational Therapists. Speech Therapists. Patient Care Technicians. Pharmacists. EMT’s. Social Workers. Pastoral Care. Medical Assistants. Environmental Services. Food Services. Operation staff and leaders. And all other health care workers are being the helpers.

So, when we hear (or see) scary things in the news (or in the hospital), look for our helpers (colleagues) because you will always find (your friends) who are helping.

 

Justin D. Triemstra, MD, FAAP is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Human Development and Associate Program Director and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

Called to Serve: A Medical Student Response to Canceled Classes and Rotations in the Pandemic

By Elizabeth Southworth

“So what’s the plan for the students” asked my attending during morning rounds on Monday March 16th. We were discussing the many changes that had already occurred over the past several days; the rooms in the Surgical ICU that had been sequestered for possible corona virus patients, the restrictions on visitors to the hospital, and the impending decision regarding 3rd and 4th year medical students on clinical rotations. Moments later the email came in – “All M3 and M4 students will immediately stop participating in their clinical clerkships or those electives that involve patient contact”. With those words, my 4th year of medical school came dramatically to a halt.

An email like that can be taken one of two ways. It can give you permission to relax and take a long break before residency, or it gives you permission to leverage your skills during an uncertain time in medicine. I am proud to say that my colleagues at Stritch School of Medicine choose the latter and began working together to fill unmet needs.Read More »