A few months have passed since I wrote my last column article, so now it’s time to get back into it. What has happened in the meantime? Well, I had baby #2, which meant I was lucky enough to take seven weeks of maternity leave from residency.
My fingers tense. Frozen not of my own accord. I want to do this, but I can’t. I need to do this, yet the anxiety grips at my mind and throat, stalling what should be an easy decision. As a Black, gay medical student in my fourth year, what I’m about to do has so many repercussions and permutations. So much so that I feel stuck, unable to be decisive when decisiveness is necessary.
by Dr. Ritu Nahar, MD, internal medicine resident physician in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, written for COVID-19: Inside the Global Epicenter: Personal Accounts from NYC Frontline Healthcare Providers by Krutika Parasar Raulkar, MD Prior to starting the COVID service, I was eating and drinking fear and anxiety — there were wakeless nights and internet research, scrutinizing countless emails taking notes on the latest Jefferson COVID guidelines. I was alternating between feeling like a strong and resilient knight …
Day 50 something? I haven’t been counting. I had to look it up, from the first day we got the hint things were really wrong … March 3, 68 days ago. That was the day all domestic travel to conferences was banned.
I didn’t start out thinking I was going to be a physician. I was going to be an actor. I committed myself to a life of emotional expression, artistic fulfillment and likely poverty, and pursued an undergraduate conservatory degree in theater, which I quickly found is one of the most nebulous forms of education one can obtain.
“You could help us with our diversity efforts. If you came here, you could be a part of building up our diversity program.” Who said I wanted to help with your diversity efforts? Why hasn’t it been built up already?
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into the late spring months, the ACGME made the recommendation to hold all residency and fellowship recruitment for the 2021 Match cycle virtually. At University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, preparations began.
My own experience has felt a bit like wading through a swamp of hysteria, grief, misinformation and lack of leadership (locally and globally) while attempting to find clarity in the mire. This has unintentionally prompted me to re-evaluate my own toolkit of coping mechanisms and the ways in which I can maintain my own semblance of sanity. Whether you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, scattered or even just bored, listless, or helpless. I hope that one or more of these cognitive approaches can be helpful.
The Collective for Resident Rights at Yale wrote the following list of demands, under our rights as medical trainees, related to the COVID era. It is time to organize. Our collective voice cannot be silenced.
In medical school, I was taught to sit at eye level when speaking to patients, ask how they would prefer to be addressed, and ask open-ended questions to allow them to express themselves. I learned to interject with “That must be really difficult for you,” or “I can only imagine how that makes you feel,” as a way to show empathy and foster better connection with patients.
I was appointed to do the morning shift in the COVID ward of our respected hospital. The unit is a negative pressure area and, to us doctors, it is comforting as we embark on the Icarus flight.
Content warning: The following article is about sexual assault and rape. I think it is time to be honest with myself and the world and say that I am a survivor of sexual assault, not a victim. I have taken the power away from my abuser and given it back to myself by speaking out.