Now is a time of great uncertainty in medical education and professional practice, but healthcare workers at all levels are in the fight together. Below, a pediatrics fellow shares his perspective.
There is no debate: COVID-19 is no joke.
I am a pediatric allergy & immunology fellow-in-training, and I am deeply concerned.
At the time I am writing this, I have been fortunate enough to practice telehealth medicine for my patients. I am honored to spend time with people clarifying their questions about COVID-19 and providing triage. I have heard from many patients and families regarding their anxiety, fears, and confusion regarding COVID-19. We live in the internet and social media age, which has provided us with so much information at our fingertips, but there is a lot of misinformation out there as well. We are seeing shortages of PPEs, common household items, and essential food products because of unnecessary hoarding. I was shocked when I went to the grocery store and saw that there were no eggs available while bread was almost sold out. I was confused when I saw people in public wearing N95 masks. How did they get ahold of these masks? I know dozens of people who need them and cannot get ahold of them. We are resorting to reusing old masks or makeshift products that are about as good as a white tank top protecting your skin against sunburn.
Just like everyone else, I am anxious for my health and the health of my friends and family. I have a wife and infant at home who I worry will get infected. Yes, I have found it strange that children have not been severely affected up to this point as they are by influenza. However, what has not been discussed in the media at length yet are children and adults with a primary immune deficiency. I am worried these children will be severely affected by COVID-19, and I would not be surprised if there is a shortage of immunoglobulin replacement. If you are able, please donate blood!
While my specialty can mostly function from home, there are several other healthcare specialists, including primary care physicians, emergency medicine physicians, anesthesiologists, hospitalists, and critical care specialists who are on the front lines. This list would be remiss if I did not mention nurses, technicians, medical assistants, janitorial staff, social workers, and food services staff. All of these people and more are putting their lives and livelihoods on the line to provide care for the greater good. If you know someone who is working in a clinic, hospital, food services, transportation, or sanitation, please take time to thank them for their service.
If you are a trainee and must stay home, take this extra time to study. You may not get this time back again. Give yourself time digitally to spend with friends and family. Find a way to cope with all of this uncertainty. Most of all, wash your hands often, and practice good social distancing. Reducing the spread of COVID-19 will prevent the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. You do not want a physician like me or a retiree who has not had to place a central line or perform intubation in several years to return to the hospital. That is no joke.
Zachary Rubin is a pediatric allergy/immunology fellow-in-training at Washington University in St. Louis. He will complete his training in 2020 and will join a private practice this summer. He has published research related to the epidemiology of primary immune deficiency and is currently focused on food allergy and medical education. He is originally from Naperville, Illinois. He enjoys spending time with his friends and family, reading, music, and sports.