Complications of COVID
With all the restrictions, caring for patients these days has meant learning to interact with them in different ways that aren’t as personal, Ms. McGrath said. It has been difficult to lose “that humanity of medicine, the usual ways that you interact with your patients that are going through a vulnerable time,” she noted.
Additionally, students in the medical field are being held back from graduation because they cannot participate in direct patient care. This is particularly problematic for PAs and medical students who must touch patients to graduate, Dr. Gadalla said. “All of this is slowing down future providers. We’re going to have trouble catching up. Who’s going to relieve us? That’s a huge problem and no one is finding solutions for that yet,” she said.
At the University of Chicago, Ms. McGrath explained, they created virtual rotations so that PA students could continue to do them at the university. Not only has the experience reminded Ms. McGrath how much she loves being a medical educator and fighting for the education of PA students, but she was surprised to find that her patients came to appreciate the time they spent with her students on the virtual platform as well.
“It’s isolating for patients to be in the hospital in a vulnerable state and with no support system,” she said. “I think being a part of [the PA students’] education gave some meaning to their hospitalization and highlighted that collaboration and connection is a human need.”
Despite everything, there’s a noticeable emphasis on the flowering buds of hope, unity, compassion, and pride that have been quietly blooming from the daily hardships. As Ms. Cardin puts it, “It’s so cliché to say that there’s a crisis. The other word is ‘opportunity,’ and it’s true, there are opportunities here.”
Taking care of each other
Creating resources for providers has been a priority at the University of Chicago, according to Ms. McGrath. “As hospitalists, we’re used to taking care of a variety of patients, but our section leadership and providers on the front lines quickly realized that COVID patients are more akin to trauma patients with their quick changes in health, as well as their isolation, fear, and unexpected deterioration,” she said. Her facility has implemented wellness initiatives to help prevent burnout and mental health problems in COVID providers so they can continue to give the best care to their patients.
Both Ms. Sheffer and Dr. Drane say that they have a peer network of APPs at Sound Physicians to call on for questions and support. And it’s encouraging to know you’re not alone and to keep tabs on how colleagues in other states are doing, Ms. Sheffer noted.
“The peer support system has been helpful,” Dr. Drane said. “This job, right now, takes pieces of you every day. Sometimes it’s so emotional that you can’t put it into words. You just have to cry and get it out so that you can go be with your family.”