A different perspective on PPE during the COVID-19 crisis

As a health care provider, husband, father, and friend, I felt compelled to share my perspective with colleagues, loved ones, and the community as we continue to manage COVID-19.  These are unprecedented times we are facing, and there is a myriad of information and guidance we are asked to review and assimilate.  This is not more information or guidance. Instead, it’s a message of hope to reduce the hysteria, fear, and worry we are all experiencing.

To summarize my thoughts, I created the following acronym that I ask you to remember as we move forward as health care workers, administrators, spouses, significant others or friends:

P: Protect ourselves
P: Protect others
E: Empathize, Empower and Treat Everyone with dignity, kindness, and respect

Ironically, as personal protective equipment (PPE) is in short supply, “PPE” should govern our conduct as we weather the storm of COVID-19.  More specifically:

Protect ourselves. Rest when you can, eat a balanced diet, hydrate regularly, and exercise often as a means to safeguard your physical and mental well-being. We can only help others if we first take care of ourselves. If the stress proves to be too great, I urge you to seek help from others.  We have our respective limits; asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but instead a sign you’re human.

Protect others. Remind them to protect themselves.  Reinforce the need to socially isolate, limit travel, and seek help, as appropriate, for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. As health care providers, we protect others by following guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local authorities.  We can also protect others by being flexible, adaptive, and receptive to new guidelines that are forthcoming as this pandemic is such a dynamic, ever-evolving problem for us all.

Empathize, empower, treat everyone with kindness, dignity, and respect.  In other words, live by the Golden Rule.  Empathize when they are angry or scared by validating their concerns and helping them toward a solution.  Simply lending an ear can go a long way toward defusing a stressful situation. Empower them by directing them to reputable websites or other literature that can provide good advice regarding symptom recognition, social distancing, or other related topics. Kindness, dignity, and respect should be the standard not only in the workplace, but outside of it. Buy only the recommended number of essential items, help others that are less fortunate, and always being mindful of the Golden Rule; those are just a few examples of how we should treat patients we have the privilege of caring for and everyone else in our lives and community.

I don’t think I am alone in viewing my partners in my practice, NICU team members, and staff in the hospital’s maternal-child units as extended family.  Because of this, I will do whatever is necessary to help them. If we live with “PPE” uppermost in our minds and evident in our actions, we will get through this crisis (and likely future crises) together.

Thank you for your time in reading this.  Please be well and be safe.

Nicolo Geralde is a neonatologist.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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