As a fellow physician colleague, I felt compelled to address what medical personnel is experiencing in the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, we’ve never been here before, and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the gravity of the situation, its effects on trainees and attending physicians across the globe. While this is not a discussion about the virus, I urge you to please follow credible sources of information, such as the CDC, guidance from your respective medical societies, and to please have your loved ones stay indoors to prevent further spread of the virus.
My prayers and thoughts are with all trainees and physicians affected and especially those on the front lines. I cannot begin to express the outright fear and panic many of my colleagues face as anesthesiologists and emergency physicians, who are on the front lines and considered high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to sheer exposure and instrumentation of airways. I am encouraged to see a turn around in the attainment of personal protective equipment in some areas so that those on the front lines can serve the public, and do so safely.
In light of this crisis, many may wonder why I would want to help students and trainees who are in medicine, let alone encourage students to enter the field. The bottom line is that I know this is scary. Many of you want to quit. Many of you figure, “What is the point if I will not be protected”? At the end of the day, each person must choose what is best for their situation.
My encouragement to colleagues is this: Take care of yourself and your family. Take measures to isolate yourself if need be. Do your absolute best to find PPE and use it religiously. Make sure you have your personal affairs in order. It pains me to write this and to think that we all consider ourselves young, but this is the time to have your wills and advance directives in place. I salute every one of you that is doing your level best to still serve and protect the public. I know we signed up to first do no harm, but many of us didn’t know what we were signing up for with this current crisis. Needless to say, we will be affected physically, mentally, and emotionally for years to come.
For residents, the same sentiments apply. Some of you have families, and even those who don’t, please get your personal affairs in order. You are tired, weary, and doing work that is beating you down. This is such a hard time to be a resident, and I understand how scary it can be. Please reach out if you need to vent. You are the next generation of doctors. Continue in an independent spirit and determination to stand up for the rights of physicians. You do not have to fit into one mold of academia or being an employee. There are more ways to serve humanity and the public than this. Suffice it to say, you are not alone. Seek wise counsel, and by all means, please vent to trusted friends and loved ones.
Medical students: Don’t lose hope. I know your rotations, match day, and graduations may be canceled, but you are not canceled. You are the next, next generation of physicians, and we need you to bring your energy, tenacity, and desire for independent practice into the picture. Learn as much as you can about the landscape of medicine. You will graduate, find residencies, and join the workforce one day. During this time, do your best to say safe and spend time with your loved ones.
Premed students: This may seem to be possibly the worst time to be a premed student. In a pandemic, no one wants to be on the front line, so why would someone sign up for this voluntarily? Tests are being canceled, scheduled, then rescheduled. There is so much uncertainty. Yet, some of you have the heart to serve others, and we all must realize that this too shall pass. When it does, you will hopefully understand that you are asking to make life-altering decisions about the lives of others. Let this understanding be your compass as you continue to study, take courses online, and pursue your premedical path.
I hope these words of encouragement help spur you on in your current situation. Whether you are clinical or non-clinical: Physicians are in the noblest of professions. Physicians and trainees, don’t forget that being a doctor is a wonderful service to mankind and that you are needed and appreciated.
Candice Williams is an anesthesiologist and president, Premed Consultants.
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