After speaking, working, and coaching with hundreds of physician moms, guess what their #1 request at work is. Guess. A pay raise? More vacation time? Adequate maternity leave? Any maternity leave? Hint: Now, for the first time in my many decades as a physician, I am hearing the same request from white male physicians who have long since completed their training.
Another hint: Look at the title. No, nothing about me is subtle.
If the response of the hospital administrations, the chiefs, the CEOs, the politicians, the public, the powers that be was respect, we would not be in this mess. It’s really that simple. And, yes, what a convoluted web they all continue to weave.
So, here’s a reminder to all the powers that be. Respect takes many forms.
Here are a few:
1. Acknowledgment of our expertise, experience, intelligence, and, yes, wisdom.
Listen to us. Let our voices be the loudest and most powerful.
Listen to what we say. Heed what we advise.
This translates into a cascade of actions:
- Get us sufficient PPE, and hospital beds, and ventilators, and adequate health professional staffing.
- Stop putting our lives in danger unnecessarily.
- Certainly, don’t fire us when we voice our expertise, especially when it comes in the form of warnings! We have all sworn a duty to honor life, to “first, do no harm.” How dare you inflict on us more moral injury and use this pandemic to do so!
- Work with us, not against us. Do not divide and conquer. This will only result in more deaths.
- Continue social distancing until we have all relevant response factors in place.
- Listen to other experts and us about what it will take and when to move to Phase II in our public response.
- Stop second-guessing effective treatments and posting misinformation on social media. And stop amplifying the voices of those who do.
2. In the meantime, the public must continue to honor shelter in place and other mitigation orders.
3. Appreciation and gratitude—not for sacrificing one’s life, but for the expert info and care—diagnosis and treatment we provide. And, remember, physicians working during this pandemic are doing far more than this.
Medical students and residents are being taught how to be fully present with a patient at the time of their death, when the patient’s own loved ones can’t, devising ways to preserve their memories and honor their lives. They are serving as the patient’s surrogate family, holding their hand as they pass. At the death of each one of their patients, one entire medical team is pausing in silence with bent heads, and saying the deceased’s name out loud.
When an intensivist from New York City was asked on a national broadcast what she wants the public to know about this crisis, her words made me sob. Did she implore people to stay at home? Did she ask for PPE? Did she ask for anything? No. She turned to the camera and said that she wanted us, the public, to know that she would be there in our place when our loved ones died.
And, lastly, the most important of all:
4. It is a sign of respect when administrators, CEOs, politicians, the public in general, take individual responsibility for their part in creating this mess, attempt to right their wrongs, and create viable solutions.
Allow us to do what we do best, in the best way we can– to practice medicine. Spend your time, energy, money, resources, supporting us, not killing us.
Our country has the necessary expertise to do all of this.
Let us. Support us. Help us.
And respect us.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com