August 1, 2020

We See You

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a cascade of chaos and suffering on a level previously unseen by this generation. This has impacted physicians in both visible and invisible ways. The visible are obvious; images of colleagues in full protective gear swabbing, intubating, and managing critical patients make it easy to appreciate how far from normal we truly are. The pictures are shocking and humbling; they are leaving indelible imprints in our collective psyche and raising awareness of the courage, the integrity, and the heroism present in each of you working in medicine today.

The invisible impacts worry me more. How will we process the sheer volume of this catastrophe: the mass of humanity needing help, the palpable anxiety, the grief and defeat of losing a patient? What about the lingering worry and guilt of potential exposures of our own families, other patients, or our staff? There is much work to be done, and we will need to look out for each other as we move forward together.

The uncertainty in these days is high, the fear potent, and the stakes serious. How do you keep going? Clarity of insight often comes into sharp focus at times like this. Here is a critical moment to ask yourself, “Why do I do what I do?” You may reference the familiar internal call to serve; you took the oath and stepped up when needed. You may understand that few, in fact, have the training and skill do what you do. You may need to time to distill a clear answer. Take it.

There are important lessons available to you now. Learn, adapt, and make the changes that need to be made. Don’t hesitate; you know what to do. It is worth identifying the fundamental values supporting your actions. Here are your super-strengths, the pillars that define your true north. Harness them with purpose.  To help you, apply the mindfulness skills you have been cultivating. Practice daily, or moment-to-moment. Choose to move through the chaos mindfully, with compassion for all involved. The world needs your steadiness, your wisdom, your vision.

I hope that you recognize your incredible value. You are uniquely equipped to rally to this moment, and all those that will follow, with intelligence, grit, heart, and determination. The fact is that each of you already are extraordinary, the difference is that now everyone in the world knows it.

Hilary McClafferty, MD

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