On the Front Lines: What the COVID-19 Outbreak Looks Like to an ER Doctor (and desert outdoor sports enthusiast) in Albuquerque

 Allison Gordon | 040220  
︎Albuquerque, New Mexico 

When The Dust asked me to write a little something on what it’s like being in healthcare right now, I said that my answer today would be different from my answer tomorrow. Work is increadily dynamic right now - our known information is changing every day. I think we are all feeling somewhat vulnerable in healthcare. At least I do being a frontline provider.

I’m an Emergency Medicine resident physician in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Full disclosure - I’m an intern, which means this is my first year of practicing medicine as a doctor. I was in prehospital care before medical school as a ski patroller, but I don’t think anything in that life or in my medical school life prepared me for what’s happening now.

One day, our screening guidelines changed 3 times during my 8 hour shift. Things are evolving, and we’re getting worrisome accounts and statistics from other states and countries that make us realize we have to be more prepared for what’s to come than they were. What is happening in other countries and cities is about to hit our hospital. We know there are about to be many sick people and we want to have enough resources to take care of them. The predictions are stressful - if people don’t do a better job with social distancing, we won’t be able to care for all of them. This places stress on everyone at the hospital. We are in healthcare to take care of others and we hope we have enough resources to do so.

What I feel is perhaps even more overwhelming is the fact that we know we must have proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep ourselves healthy, or even alive. This virus can do horrible things to humans, and nobody is immune. Not the young, not the healthy, and especially not the healthcare providers. Providers all over the world have acquired coronavirus and died from it- both young with no other health conditions, and of course old, our most susceptible populations. One thing that is especially worrisome is the current shortage of masks. We’ve even had to start hiding masks from the public because they are taking boxes from our hospitals.

We talk about mass casualties in the field of emergency medicine a lot. That’s the process of triaging patients and selecting who gets care first, etc, but I don’t think we’ve ever gone over specifically what to do in a pandemic. I am worried that eventually we will be the ones who have to decide which patients get to use our life support machines. I don’t want to have to make decisions like that. It seems so unfair. So today as I write this, I feel vulnerable. Some days I do truly feel brave and ready to take on what’s to come in the ER world and other days I feel really nervous and scared, envying those whose job it is to stay at home. Please stay home for us so that we can be ready to take care of you, your friends, parents and grandparents while staying safe ourselves. 

We can’t do it without you.

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