Covid 19- Physician Letter to Staff- A Hospitalist’s Worries & Reflection!

“I’ll just say that if/when I get COVID, and if I require hospitalization, I’d want to be taken care of by you and I’d hope my COVID status wouldn’t make you fear that.”

I’m just going to bare my soul and tell you how I feel:

As a 53 year old with some underlying asthma who takes weeks to get over any respiratory illness, I have some anxiety about getting COVID at the hospital.  And about spreading it to my spouse who works in a nursing home full of vulnerable elderly residents.  Many times I’ve searched around inside my logical brain and in my heart about this very idea of getting COVID at work.  While I would never quit my job over this stinking virus, I let my brain ponder that too.  I realized that if I quit my job right now I’d get it anyway, holed up at home or not.  It might be this week when I’m pumping gas at the gas station, or next week when I’m picking up milk at the grocery store, or when a food/supply delivery comes and untold numbers of humans have touched the items before I get them.  I have to confess I’ve never been the biggest germophobe.  Five second (+) rule in my house has always applied and I licked my kids’ pacifiers to “clean them off.”  But still this virus is more worrisome than most because it’s so efficiently infective.  Maybe my immune system is primed, and it knows what to do when COVID comes along, and maybe not.

Every one of you is different physically and each of you sits somewhere along the anxiety curve about this virus.  I don’t judge any of those things.  I welcome you to share any of that with me or your colleagues, at any level.  The VitalTalk suggestion is real, that worries are easiest to bear when shared.

The current worry on so many people’s minds is the PPE issue and I understand that.  In the big picture it’s very important to conserve PPE (N95s and PAPRs), using them for the procedures that cause the virus to aerosolize, creating the most risk for spread.  I wish we had an endless supply of these things but that isn’t the case.  I wish this virus wasn’t the crafty, bad actor that it is.  I’ve gone over and over in my head about the “if we have the PPE why aren’t we using it” question and I just can’t rationalize using all of our supplies up front, having nothing for those aerosolizing procedures later.

I think getting faster test turn-around times will help, because we won’t be burning through PPE for “COVID-pending” patients for days on end.  I know that our Hospital system will continue to reassess the PPE situation and shuffle supplies amongst hospitals, to say nothing about shoring up the supply chain in general.  We may even see waxing and waning levels of protection.   I know that our hospital is NOT alone in making tough decisions about PPE, and therefore our fellow healthcare workers everywhere are now or will be in the same boat.

But this all comes back to what I believe to be true, and that is that we will likely all get this.  I may get it in the hospital because I’m taking care of a sick patient.  If I get it in this hospital, a hospital that I know is being as thoughtful as possible about it’s people, that’s OK with me.

I’ll just say that if/when I get COVID, and if I require hospitalization, I’d want to be taken care of by you and I’d hope my COVID status wouldn’t make you fear that.

-Denver Hospitalist

(Letter sent to fellow Physicians)

Feel free to leave a reply expressing your own worries-  Mark Elliott, MD, MBA

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