A COVID-19 physician pep talk

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All hands on deck! No one sits this one out. We are all MD/DOs. We all took the same oath, and in unison. Year after year, we graduate as our parents and grandparents shed tears of joy. In those years of sleep-depriving, relationship-straining, self-confidence-trying medical school and residency: We dissected everything.  The human body, the human heart (the non-anatomical one), and even what it means to follow that damn oath. We didn’t sign out an active patient. We tucked our patients in. We had each other’s back.

We were given our education, partly at this country’s expense. (The student debt doesn’t feel like that, I know.) Our residencies were partly funded by federal dollars.  And now, we are being called. Actually begged quietly, and soon in unison. Our education is a skill and a gift. Neither can be wasted or not tapped into now.

Once a physician, always a physician. You can’t retire that. We know what others don’t. Believe me, we do. Even if it’s dusty, covered in cobwebs. It’s there. My classmates, my surgeons (with their canceled elective surgeries), my subspecialists (who never or rarely, if ever, have an inpatient consult), my non-clinical industry colleagues: Join us! Bring yourself back there with me. Let’s get back to that third-year medical student feeling where we were literally dropped in and managed every time to swim. The nurses will not yell at us this time! They will stand with us. You can do it. We can do it together.

We’re like the volunteer firefighters who go to the fire while telling everyone else to evacuate. And they do that because they are there together. So we can do the same. We must. We cannot abandon each other. We are physicians first, specialists second. My social circle is filled with all you brilliant people with big hearts and sick humor. I see you! Get ready. We’re going back to the days of see one, do one, teach one. You teach me, I teach you.  We must demand that Good Samaritan laws kick in and licensure restrictions, non-compete clauses be waived.

But either way.  It’s time.  Dig down, remember that personal statement you wrote for medical school applications. It’s all still true. You are that person. Not as naive about what it takes or how much it has burned you out. But that person who cares deeply is still there. You can do this. Remember, we were trained four years in everything, or at least enough of everything to be helpful. To know when someone is sick. Every physician can triage. Those clinical pearls will come back. Let’s do the scut together. Let’s write those H&Ps, progress notes, enter those orders. It will be OK; we can put our hands up and call for help. But our hands will be there.  Ready to pick up anything.  A pager, a central line kit, or a coffee. Our hands will all be on deck.

Sujani G. Surakanti is a hematology-oncology physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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