What do you need? What do you need right now, and what will you need days, weeks, months from now?
Do you need PPE or time off? Do you need hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes? How about testing kits? Swabs? Do you need help keeping your practice afloat or managing a pay cut? Do you need your organization to acknowledge your struggles and make changes to prioritize the health and well-being of you, your colleagues, and other staff?
Do you need a break? What about help managing homeschooling and 24/7 supervision of your kids? I’m not a teacher. Even if I was, I wouldn’t be the best choice to be my own kids’ teacher. Not even a close second.
How is sheltering in working for you? Are you overwhelmed by the constant noise and activity, or do you miss the physical proximity of friends and family? While some introverts are flourishing during this “mandated” nesting time, some extroverts are nearing the breaking point.
Are you struggling to manage stress or anxiety? For some, more time at home means less contact with others. More loneliness and isolation. Are you drinking a little bit more a bit more often? Which habits have you battled with that are fighting their way to surface? Do you need help coping?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers for what you need. I am a child psychiatrist and a physician coach, and on most days, my reach feels pretty small. My husband is an ER physician who owns an urgent care. I give him love, support, a listening ear, and occasionally, free marketing help. But our clinic ran out of disinfectant wipes, and I still have not been able to find more. I can’t even give him everything that he needs.
However, with all of the needs that are surely to emerge as the acute phase of this pandemic passes, our emotional and psychological health will certainly be at the top of the list. The WHO created a report outlining an action plan for residents and health care workers impacted by the Ebola outbreak with limited suggestions for addressing the psychological impact. A JAMA Network commentary described that those at greatest risk for later psychological sequelae included:
- Population-wide exposures to trauma such as witnessing and caring for individuals who are severely ill
- Perceived life threat
- Substantial mortality and bereavement
- Orphaning of children
- Deaths of trained health care workers
- Food and resource insecurity
Many of us have experienced some version of one or many of these factors over the past two months. The WHO recommended a proactive response plan to identify and support at-risk individuals. Do you have a plan in place?
We must keep asking for and demanding what we need. After the immediate crisis has passed, and the status quo of pre-COVID 19 health care threatens to return, can we anticipate what we and our colleagues might need? How did we feel in our professional and personal lives before coronavirus arrived? Were we supported and fulfilled or unsupported and dissatisfied? Were our days filled with too many obligations and activities spread over too few hours? Regardless of where our careers and lives have us today, we are all intelligent, independent, creative whole people who deserve to live and practice with all of our needs acknowledged and, when possible, attended to. This is even more important as we begin to recover and adapt to our post-COVID 19 lives.
Let’s be proactive and name what we will need going forward. For most of us, we can start by looking at those around us for support. What each of us needs might look very different.
We’ll need each other, as colleagues and leaders who can continue to advocate for the support and care of physicians and all health care workers. If this crisis has shown us nothing else, it has revealed that as physicians, we are our own best advocates. But our strength is in our numbers, our collective talents, skills, and wisdom.
We’ll need to connect with our friends and families, those people closest to us. For now, over the phone or computer screen, but soon, with a hug or over a meal.
We’ll need our therapists, coaches, mentors, advisors, all of those people whose expertise can help us put together the bits of our lives left in disarray. We might even begin to imagine what a better version of ourselves might look like. Attending to our needs are at the foundation of enabling us to live and practice as our whole selves.
So, what do you need?
Tracy Asamoah is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and can be reached at Tracy Asamoah Coaching.
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