It is Wednesday afternoon and I have one last annual visit for the day. As I enter the room, a slender 27-year-old woman wearing a white t-shirt and baggy blue jeans sits in the chair across from me.
Students across the country in all grade levels, from preschool to graduate school, had their educational routines upended by the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdown. In medicine, there were special challenges associated with adapting safety protocols to a field that inherently requires human interaction.
Mr. T did not smile at me. No, I didn’t think it was because he was mean or anything; in fact, he was polite and had quite a calming voice. But honestly, it was hard to read someone’s facial expression behind a mask — at least during the first few months of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Many in our nation see COVID-driven requirements as anathema to their independence, but what if mandates are actually the best way to secure our personal liberties?
As COVID-19 continues to rage around the world, extended quarantine measures have been responsible for saving innumerable lives. Now, as we slowly catch glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel, or face the possibility of rising cases returning us to the heights of the pandemic, it is important to examine the long-term side effects of our self-prescribed quarantine treatment.
20 / still / except / her chest rising, falling
With the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and the arrival of the summer season, people are feeling happier and beginning to come out of their homes. It’s clear that there is a growing sense of hope that the pandemic may be approaching its conclusion. However, standing in the way of our pursuit of normalcy is the refusal among some to partake in the vaccine, despite its proven efficacy and safety by experts.
For better or worse, I have always partaken in escapism in one form or another. “Escapism,” defined as the practice of avoiding a difficult reality by immersing oneself in distraction or entertainment, is a concept that rose in popularity in the 1930s as a natural reaction to the Great Depression of the previous decade. Although I did not know it at the time, I have been practicing escapism since 2000 BC (before COVID). As the eldest daughter of immigrants who were new to the continent and busy building a life from scratch, I would get lost in stories from a very young age. I had little in the way of friends and even less of an interest in being popular, so naturally I was drawn to books to fill that emotional void; novels were the way to my heart — fantasy and fiction, oh my!
For many of the elderly and their families, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a scary and trying time. A major concern has been the physical health and safety of this vulnerable population. In addition to community infection control measures like social distancing and avoidance of public gatherings to slow the initial spread of the outbreak, public health officials have also endeavored to protect high-risk populations by recommending electronic visits with loved ones, whether they are at private homes, nursing homes, or in the hospital.
My medical school career was complicated by more than just complex cardiac physiology or biochemical pathways. Little did I know that at the end of my second year I would go from knocking on a patient’s door during a clinical session, to sitting in an exam room myself.
I hope my classmates, communities, and I all dance far more often with health than sickness. I pray that soon the last hospital bed holds the last patient with COVID. I hope justice and truth prevail. I hope we hold onto what we carry: the love of friends and family, a resilience tried and true, bravery unbridled and faith that we will persevere among the challenges life affords. I hope that after long days of caring for others, we care for ourselves and call a friend, a loved one, a therapist — and remember how far we’ve come. We have been patients, and we will be patients, even as we care for patients.
Presenteeism does not simply exist for seasoned providers; it seeps down the medical training pipeline and perhaps poses the greatest threat to trainees at the start of their careers. The fear of missing out as the “beginner on the team” can be paralyzing when there is so much important knowledge beyond us. Such pressure persists longitudinally, too, as trainees at every level fear that taking time off will appear as a lack of dedication to clinical education or will result in lower performance evaluations.