Love for doctors in the COVID-19 coronavirus era

All across the world, physicians have answered an internal call to action in response to COVID-19 coronavirus. Early on, there was an online mobilization. Existing closed physician Facebook groups were beginning to share information regarding the novel coronavirus when it had not yet spread to the states.

At the time, because physicians are human scientists and not fortune tellers, there was a lot of self-questioning. “Am I being an alarmist? Please tell me if so.”

Turns out, no, astute colleague from Idaho, you very accurately anticipated our current situation. More recently, as the outbreak reached a pandemic status, new physician Facebook groups have been created specifically to discuss SARS-CoV-2 and what we can do, as a profession, to help. Retired physicians are offering to temporarily rejoin the workforce. Pathologists and psychiatrists, some further removed from clinical medicine and patient care than others, are proposing that they work in emergency departments and inpatient hospital units in the capacity of a resident physician, directly supervised by a more qualified clinician. During a time of increasing public anxiety and fear, there is an inherent understanding that this is our time to rise to an unprecedented challenge.

I am amazed and proud each time I refresh my newsfeed and read new posts from these groups; people much smarter than I are sharing what they are witnessing in clinical practice, evidence-based thoughts on trends of the SARS-CoV-2, what challenges they anticipate for the future and even how they are planning to protect their own families. 

While physicians share in the goal of “flattening the curve” and are in support of social distancing to meet this goal, there is a collective understanding that despite our own worries, we must get to work. Our contribution to combating this pandemic entails doing what we have been called upon and trained to do: take care of patients. Beyond that, we are also trying to lead by example. We are canceling our own weddings, baby showers, and long-anticipated family vacations in the coming months. We are writing emails to our administrators and organizing bodies to help us provide the best health care, which includes proposing ways to avoid crowded waiting rooms and suggesting the cancellation of elective surgeries. We are washing our hands with soap and water for the duration of two rounds of the Happy Birthday song to model what 20 seconds or longer looks like for our children. We are sharing evidence-based recommendations with our family, friends, and patients and tackling the constant flow of misinformation. (Essential oils and colloidal silver are not cures for COVID-19!)

We are advising our elderly parents to stay home and trying our absolute best not to call on them for childcare despite having difficulty securing other caregivers for our children, who are home from school and daycare. We are sharing information, in real-time, to help each other navigate this uncertain, fluid, and constantly evolving situation. For all of these reasons, I would like to take a moment to thank my colleagues around the world, especially those physicians on the front lines. Thank you for the constant and continuing medical education. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your fellowship. 

Alpa Patel Shah is a pediatrician. 

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