SGIM Forum

Perspective: Part III

COVID-19 Reflections

Dr. Hart (; Twitter: @mrslcrobinson) is assistant professor of pediatrics and
adjunct assistant professor of medicine, Nationwide Children’s Hospital/The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

I hit a wall today.

I felt like I was doing really well with the changes that COVID-19 had brought on. Sure, we were making all sorts of clinic adjustments, but it was going to be fine because my job is all outpatient, not in the hospital. I was brainstorming with my husband about how he could handle his cabin fever from being at home, but I didn’t need any help because I had the mental relief of going to work like I always do. I was good.

And then, I just … hit a wall.

Earlier in the day, I could feel myself struggling. With so many protocols and policies changing daily or even a couple of times in a day, you can’t keep them straight and so instead of everyone feeling comfortable and confident in their roles, every question leads to scouring desks for the handout that covers that topic or scrolling through emails to find the message that was sent about it. You don’t feel confident about anything. It’s draining when issues that are normally simple are suddenly so very hard.

Photo credit by Thomas McGinn

And then something that we do every day in my office, a teenager’s physical in the med-peds clinic, hit a string of snags, and I was done. It’s one thing when the stuff we are still figuring out is hard. But when the stuff we do without a problem any other day was suddenly beyond us, I lost it. I cried, right there in the office. And while those who know me know that I am crier, this just felt different. I was out of words. I couldn’t even tell you how I felt. All I had for my emotions in that moment were the tears.
The tears didn’t last long at the time, because they couldn’t. There were two patients left to be seen and no other doctors in the office (social distancing—work edition). It was on me to pull myself together and get it done. I took a lap around the physician work room, blew my nose, washed my hands (yes, I
used soap and water), and went to the next patient.
I got home a couple of hours later, hoping to relax, and mostly just felt guilty.
How could I dare to be frustrated at work when my husband and I are both still working and so many families have no income right now?
How could I dare to be frustrated at work when being able to leave your house is such a privilege at the moment?
How could I dare to be frustrated at work when I have colleagues all across the country facing such huge personal risk in hospitals without the necessary safety equipment?
How could I dare to be frustrated at work when my family is well and so many have loved ones suffering with this virus alone in ICUs around the world?
I keep trying to remind myself that everyone is struggling in ways large and small now, and it’s ok to be struggling and acknowledge my feelings, whatever they may be. I don’t know that I quite believe that yet.

Maybe tomorrow.


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