Physician Well-being in Times of a Public Health Crisis
Hello to our Physicians For Physicians community,
It's been a long time since you heard from us - a very long time - but we felt the strong pull to send out a message during this public health crisis sweeping the globe caused by COVID-19. We have deep, genuine concern when it comes to our medical community and their families as the impact of this is unknown and already proving severe. We felt it would be irresponsible to not 'show up' in some way to let everyone out there know we’re here if you want to reach out, and we, like many, are feeling mounting anxiety during this unprecedented time. We wanted to share some thoughts with you, as well as a few resources.
It’s probably safe to say that we’re not alone thinking we would never be experiencing something like this during our lifetime. We live in a world where we feel so much is within our collective control. We perceive many of society’s crisis have been at the hands of human decision-making. Technology adds power to this control and we end up feeling fairly comfortable in our corner of the world.
And then enters COVID-19.
We don’t need to outline the consequences of this pandemic as by now, March 24, 2020, most of us in the world are experiencing the impact through extreme social distancing measures, cancelled everything, states of emergency, and shut down businesses/amenities everywhere you turn. This situation is so fluid and evolving so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. We ourselves are relying on the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and our local news sources for daily updates.
What makes this virus so dangerous is a combination of many factors that are well described in this TED interview with infectious disease expert Adam Kucharski. Our best efforts come down to “flattening the curve”, given we’re dealing with a novel virus - aka no immunity in society nor preventive measure or treatment - that is highly contagious.
We all know this is taking a toll on an already precarious healthcare system here in Canada, and similarly in other parts of the world such as our neighbours to the south. However, the human toll, on our frontline healthcare workers cannot be over-stated.
We’ve been expressing our concerns about physician well-being long before this COVID-19 pandemic - before physicians and healthcare workers were being exposed to potential infection from the virus; before their resources were completely maxed out; before they became overloaded by patient and societal questions and concerns; before they faced insurmountable personal and professional challenges due to COVID-19. We’re next-level concerned about our physician colleagues and also about our medical leaners. What does this mean for their medical education, and even future, given the impact this is having on their clinical experiences?
We don't have answers - none of us do right now. We’re hearing and reading stories from physicians on the frontlines, and are also hearing directly from some medical students in our local community. We hope that everyone knows they’re important, even if they currently feel dispensable. You are and continue to be valuable, even if that means sitting on the sidelines and learning in other ways for the time being.
Given the emotional, physical, social, and financial repercussions we’re facing right now, we believe that we can all be more vigilant when it comes to our colleagues’ and learners’ well-being. The same goes for our neighbors and people in our communities. Nothing has equalized society more in our recent lifetime than this crisis. Our humanity, our oneness, has to be recognized now more than ever and mobilized as our greatest defence.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
~ Dalai Lama XIV
Some Resources (if you're feeling stressed like us)
1. Curated content hand-picked to support your mental and emotional wellness during this worldwide crisis from Calm. One exercise we really like that they offer is the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise.
When you’re feeling anxious, pause and settle your mind by naming:
5 things you can see
4 things you can hear
3 things you can touch
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
2. Yoga with Adrienne - a plethora of free yoga videos that Sara uses on a regular basis. Did you know yoga is a second line treatment for Major Depressive Disorder?!
3. Insight Timer Meditation App - again free unless you choose upgrades. We chose this meditation in particular to share from Liz Gilbert.
In reality, we’re all swimming in the same water, filled with loss, grief, fear, isolation, sadness and anxiety. This may be a time where technology is to be embraced as it allows us to feel less alone through virtual connection, opportunities and digital media. As always, we invite you to reach out to us through Twitter, Instagram and/or e-mail.
One last thing, we were interviewed for Kinnected.org before this global pandemic hit and it was just published so wanted to shared it in case you are interested: Physicians For Physicians - A Wellness Initiative.
Sending hope and light to you and your loved ones.
With gratitude for you,
Sara & Colin