Today, I put my role of doctor above my role of mom. Today, my physician husband and I made the difficult decision to send our daughter to live with my in-laws for the foreseeable future as we prepare to battle coronavirus in New York City.
I am a pediatric hospitalist, and a few weeks ago, I had no idea what things would look like for me at work. We heard that children were not as sick, but we did not know how bad things would get for adults. Today, New York City is in crisis. The hospitals have more patients than doctors to care from them. Pediatric units are closing all over the city to make room for adult patients. Doctors and nurses are themselves becoming ill and not able to continue to care for patients. We are in an all hands on deck situation. Staffing is already stretched thin, and the patients are still coming. Our hospital is preparing to care for adult patients with COVID-19. My husband is leaving behind his fellowship to work on the inpatient floors to take care of COVID-19 patients. Our new “normal” is completely uncertain. Today, we face the risk of exposure, potential illness, and a changing schedule outside of our control.
Our duty to our daughter is to keep her safe, healthy, and happy. Our duty to our nanny is to not put her at increased risk. Our duty to humanity is be effective physicians. The patients need us, our colleagues need us, New York City needs us. So, I packed up my daughter’s favorite toys and books and sent her to stay with her grandparents, unsure of when I will be able to hug her or kiss her boo-boo or tuck her into bed and tell her everything will be ok.
Physician parents make tough decisions about the profession versus family all of the time. Today, my brain knows I made the right choice, but my heart is still broken.
Priya N. Jain is a pediatric hospitalist.
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