The U.S. is currently leading the world in confirmed COVID-19 cases. John Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering reports that over 866,000 people across the nation have tested positive for the coronavirus and almost 50,000 people have died.
Doctors are reaching out to both the general public and to each other. In YouTube videos, they beg people to stay home and practice social distancing. They also connect with colleagues across the world for guidance and support via apps such as Marco Polo, Twitter, and Zoom.
On the frontlines, they see hospitals that are overwhelmed and other HCPs who are at a loss. There is no time to wait for evidence-based medicine and best practices to guide their treatment options. This overwhelming feeling of not knowing what to do, what to expect, and the general lack of knowledge has providers everywhere feeling uncertain about the steps to take when treating their patients.
Doctors have questions that are going unanswered and it has them scared. One doctor told The New Yorker that the current situation has brought back the fear she used to have, in residency, when she worried that she was inadequate.
Doctors not only face physical dangers daily, as they are exposed to COVID-19 with a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessary equipment, they also face the risk of moral injury when treating patients with very little resources.
How do these physicians cope with all of this? The same way they did during residency – with camaraderie and support for each other.
Residency can be some of the most difficult days for physicians. During that time, they learn to lean on each other and to develop their skills. Now, as they face uncertain times, some physicians are falling back on the same comforts that got them through residency.
So, doctors are reaching out to old colleagues and friends, in online meetings. They compare notes, ask questions and get answers. One doctor even sent his colleagues — scattered across the U.S. — industrial-grade N95 masks. Even small acts, like wearing the same clothing they did while in residency, or the same haircut empowers them and reminds them that they can get through this.
Besides finding comfort in those who got them through residency, doctors are also reaching out to colleagues across the world, particularly in China, South Korea, and Italy, for guidance and advice. They confer medical journals and even participate in the live stream of Grand Rounds at the Institute for Global Health to learn more about treatment options. Apps keep them connected as well; they can easily ask clinical questions, share data and compare cases across the nation.
We don’t have all the answers. Scientists, the government, The World Health Organization, The Center for Disease Control, and many other entities are working as quickly and as urgently as they can to find the answers needed to stop COVID-19. But it is the healthcare workers on the front lines, the doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers, who truly care for their patients that have to provide treatment and hope that it helps.
We can only do our part to ease their burden by adhering to the guidance issued by the CDC.