Everything Changed – COVID-19 From a 1st Year Resident’s View
I am a 1st Year Medical Resident. Everything Changed due to the Corona Virus Outbreak.
The past week has been an absolute whirlwind as the COVID-19 pandemic has rocked most aspects of our daily lives. I am a first-year resident at a reputable hospital in one of the world’s largest cities. Although I had been following the international coronavirus epidemic news for the past few weeks, I could have never imagined what it was going to entail in my first year of residency and my fellow medical students.
I am used to taking care of extremely ill patients and having long rotations in the hospital. My training over the past few months was very different since the COVID-19 pandemic had gained momentum in the USA. In the hospital, I try to protect myself while taking care of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 (+) patients. The problem, however, is that the “guidelines” change constantly.
Each day is different. Last week if you were exposed to a patient undergoing testing for COVID-19 (who was not yet confirmed positive,) you immediately had to self-quarantine for 14 days, regardless of symptoms. Today, if you are exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 patient, you are expected to work, as long as you are asymptomatic. The caution approaches had changed merely over a few days. Every day, we are overwhelmed with guidance emails from our chiefs, attending physicians, and hospital administrators. The information is helpful, but it is undoubtedly anxiety-provoking.
One of the biggest problems right now is the obvious shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). What once was considered the “gold standard” for what one should wear when exposed to a COVID-19(+) patient. We are reusing soiled masks, which are not safe. Besides safety issues, I am dealing with the emotional burden the epidemic has caused. COVID-19 patients constantly ask me when they can have family visitors again in this form of isolation. It’s difficult for me not to have the answer. Currently, the guidelines are to stay 14 days in quarantine, but does that still apply even if they test negative? When they call the families, I can hear people crying on the other end. My heart feels broken as I offer my support and hope that we will have more answers soon.
The normal residency workflow has been disrupted. Educational conferences are canceled. Workrooms are being changed and teams spread out to avoid clutter. Night float sign-out is occurring over the phone rather than in person. Efforts are being made to minimize the time non-call residents spend in the hospital, letting them go early to minimize exposure. Residents on elective, research and outpatient rotations are obligated to back-up for co-interns that fall ill. What was once a “break” from the hospital, has now turned into you sitting at home, anxiously waiting to be called in. And when I say sitting at home, I mean it. Cities and states are on lockdown. Only “essential” workers are allowed to be leaving their homes for essential tasks. Social distancing is the new way of life.
I and a few of my co-interns had received traveling blocks. We had trips planned to visit family and friends–a break from the hospital, something we had been much looking forward to for months. Because of the pandemic, everything had to be canceled, and hours were spent calling airlines to cancel flights, hotels, and various other reservations. Not only this, but friends have had to postpone weddings. Others have not been able to see their parents or grandparents in fear of transmitting this invisible virus to them. Sadly, all of this seems trivial compared to what is happening around me in the hospital.
I realize that coming into the hospital every day is a privilege, but I am at an inevitable risk. My co-interns and I have accepted the fact that we may get COVID-19. I am thankful that our chiefs have been working hard to map out catastrophe plans when more of us fall ill. The next few weeks of our lives are uncertain, but what is certain is that we will continue to stay dedicated to our patients and the role of the physician which we are undeniably proud to hold.
If you are a medical resident or a medical student whose daily routine was affected by the Corona outbreak, please know that you are not alone. Feel free to contact us for a studying guideline during the medical schools closure.