Podiatry residents are required to have external rotations in different medical specialties to gain a breadth of knowledge and experience. One of the more demanding rotations in my residency program is internal medicine, a rotation that residents complete in the spring of our first year.
I just completed that rotation in March when the COVID-19 virus came to Indiana.
This past month was a maelstrom of new information, disaster preparation, uncertainty and anxiety. March began with school closures and speculation. It escalated quickly to dismissal of medical students, a state lockdown and thinking about where I fit into this scheme as someone who “just wants to fix feet” found herself on the medical floors during a pandemic.
The hospital and administrative staff went into necessary hyperdrive. Daily administrative meetings translated into emails that are impossible to keep up with. Attendings circled the computer rooms where residents write notes to check in on morale and this ironically increased anxiety. This was the first time I had ever gone to work worried that I might get sick or be an unknowing carrier of illness to my patients. Residents and attendings are self-quarantining from their spouses and children, changing clothes in the garage, and getting COVID-19 test results after exposure. I feel like my only advantage is that I am used to wearing masks for hours at a time.
I have never felt like a potential incubator of disease before. It seems “un-doctorly.” It also seems un-doctorly to hear the small voice in my head second-guessing going to work. The fear of going was outweighed by the potential guilt of staying home, and leaving my team and patients when this “surge” is expected to hit any day. So I put on my scrubs and went to work because it is what we all do and will continue to do.
A candid and unfazed façade is a carefully maintained shield for health-care professionals hardened and used to compartmentalizing bad news, trauma and anxiety. It is part of the process of getting here and staying here. It is how we can drive to the hospital knowing we are exposing ourselves and our families to serious illness. These are aspects of our work that are present on a regular day but currently there is a greater awareness of our mortality. A prophesized surge of COVID-19 patients flooding the hospital certainly adds a sense of impending doom. Nevertheless, the call must be answered with our ranks at the ready.
Podiatry is part of these ranks. Patients still need our services in the hospital even if elective cases are postponed. We will be there if our counterparts in the ICU or internal medicine need us. I have trust in my residency program and hospital that we will get through this together and continue to treat patients with compassion while doing our utmost to protect our staff. However, it is clear that we as residents must be ready to play a role on the frontlines in the coming months.
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” -John Wesley
Dr. Hine is a first-year Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Resident at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are not reflective of Ascension St. Vincent Indianapolis.