Please listen to those in the trenches

Where have the months of summer gone? The hazy, lazy days of summer to be spent out on the lake, picnicking with friends and family, state fairs, all the fun things we long to take part in. Occasions that should call for one to be present at with anticipation such as class reunions, weddings, baptisms of new babies, graduation ceremonies – all have come to a screeching halt. Even the passing of a loved one, a time of reverence and respect, was put on lockdown.

One of the most powerful countries in the world, the United States of America, has been brought to its knees by an invisible contagion that is so deadly. Meet COVID-19. This virus has laid its black cloak upon most of the populated world. In the U.S. alone, approximately 6 million people have become infected, and over 170,000 people have died a horrible death.

If one is to search for something positive during these past several months when we have been under siege, it is the united front presented by those in the health care professions –  the doctors, nurses, EMTs, etc. who have served on the frontline of the war during this pandemic. They have sacrificed their safety to undertake the compassionate care of those individuals infected with COVID-19.

Without sufficient numbers of protective equipment, these courageous individuals have stood beside those severely infected with the virus and have gone far beyond the oaths taken when they began their careers. Who would have ever imagined a pandemic of this duration during our lifetime? Exhausted, worn out and discouraged at times, they have endured long duty shifts with the utmost dedication to saving lives. Sadly though, far too often, lives have been lost to COVID. This virus does not pick favorites; it has claimed the lives of not only members of our citizenry but also our health care professionals.

During “normal” times, the healing profession is a highly stressful job. Burnout among physicians and nurses was already an issue during pre-pandemic times, exacerbated by interference and regulatory mandates issued by health insurance corporations, pharmaceutical companies, and governmental agencies. The physician’s ability to plan a course of action to treat his patients, is, to a large extent, being controlled by corporate executives sitting in their far-removed offices. These executives are making, at times, life and death decisions that should be in the hands of the patient’s doctor, an individual who meets face to face with the patient and knows he/she the best. And I might add, the one who possesses years of medical training and experience in caring for the health of all of us. Slowly, over the past decade or so, the physician’s sovereignty to care for his patients has been usurped by outliers. As a patient, I find this to be a travesty. There have to be changes made to how health care is carried out. It is going to be necessary that administrators listen to what their doctors and nurses are saying, what it’s like to work in the trenches rather than in the board rooms. Doctors and nurses should feel that their opinions and comments for improvement in daily procedural tasks, along with adequate time to interact with patients are being heard but, more importantly, acted upon. They should feel, that at the end of the day, their work mattered, and they matter. If not, the system will continue to erode, with more and more of our doctors and nurses leaving to find a less stressful job.

As patients, we need to do our part too. We owe our doctors and nurses an immense debt of gratitude and our support. We can start by simply thanking them for the service they provide us. They are working extra hard right now during difficult times to make sure they can provide the utmost in care to us in a safe environment. During this time of COVID, follow the guidelines given by the CDC, that is, wear a mask when out in public, maintain social distance, and use proper hygiene methods. Ignoring these guidelines, in my opinion, is an act of selfishness. It is a lack of concern for the welfare of those around you. We can beat this virus, but we must all work together.

This time of COVID should be a time of learning for all of us. Let us all learn from the mistakes of the past to move into a brighter and healthier future.

Michele Luckenbaugh is a patient. 

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