Those two words are a definite understatement. Especially for healthcare workers.
The whole world is presently reeling from a crisis that is straight out of a Suzanne Collins novel. How did it happen that a once-in-a-lifetime event happened in my lifetime? I have no idea. When I started this blog, I was settled to the fact that I will lead a humdrum existence devoid of any real-proximate-death-inducing risk — but here I am.
On the bright side (and there are some), I am thankful for several things:
1. I celebrated the end of my 4th decade in this world yesterday; here’s to hoping for better days, weeks, months, years, decades to come …
2. The love-of-my-life is with me and we are still as crazy about each other as we were 17 years ago ….
4. My father, my sister, my brother, my aunts and I are in different countries (continents even), so at least if one of us contracts an infection (most likely me), social distancing will not be a problem (ha ha) ….
3. I am a healthcare worker, hence, I can do something active aside from fiddling my thumbs.
However, I still feel like Frodo …
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
This article, written by a doctor in the Atlantic magazine, is sobering and reflective; and I just feel like posting some of these words right now.
We don’t take these risks because of an abstract “ethical duty”; we take them because it is what we do every time we walk into the chaos and danger of the emergency department. We do it because it is our job.
Our duty is not boundless, and in bad situations, sacrificing providers is not what is best for society. If health-care providers are going to risk their life, then there is a reciprocal obligation—the fairness principle—that society, employers, and hospitals keep them safe and ensure that they are fairly treated, whether they live, get sick, or die.
Having colleagues sharing the burden is a crucial predictor for clinicians’ willingness to work despite the risk. But when the cascade starts, when you are forced to reuse your disposable face mask for the third day in a row, and another nurse doesn’t come in, because of her concern for her daughter, and you know that two of your colleagues are being treated in the ICU and another 10 are home infected, and then another physician calls out sick, and there are no clerks again today? Sooner or later, you look around and see so few standing with you. At some point, the system could break, and we will all be gone.