It’s March 30, 2020, and it’s national doctor’s day. But this year is unlike any other. It has been trying times recently for physicians. Even before the pandemic, burnout was 46% and the physician suicide rate is the highest of any profession. Physicians have been frustrated trying to shuffle paperwork, and serve hospital systems and insurance companies when all we really want to do is take care of patients.
Now our situation has shifted. In a pandemic, we no longer have time to worry about our failing American health system—we have to act. And physicians everywhere are acting. They are stepping up to take care of the surges of people with COVID-19 in our communities.
As a hospitalist on this Doctor’s Day, I start a string of shifts caring for patients infected with COVID-19. Every physician I know caring for COVID-19 patients is experiencing higher levels of stress ever (and we know stress). But we also feel more alone than ever as we distance ourselves from our families, friends and colleagues in order to protect them.
What can you do to support physicians for Doctor’s Day 2020?
1. Just reach out and connect. It means so much to us to hear from you, and to remember we are working for YOU.
2. Donate PPE if you have any. We can’t take care of you if we are ill ourselves.
3. Stay home. PLEASE. I am literally begging. The chant “We go to work for you. Please stay home for us” are just as much for as it is for us. There are only so many beds. Don’t make us choose who gets them.
4. Remember all of this when it’s over. Because this will end… and after the pandemic has subsided, please remember that physicians were there. Despite personal anxiety and concerns for our own safety and our families, we keep showing up to take care of you. So sometimes we have bad days too. We, like you, are human, and we’re doing our very best.
As for me, I will approach Doctor’s Day more seriously than ever. Some of my colleagues have died from COVID-19, and we will lose more before we’re through. I will continue to use Doctor’s Day as a time to reflect on my place in this calling. I hope we all remember—not just on Doctor’s Day—the sacrifices physicians make. . . . .