Today was a two-cup-of-tea day, meaning that I arrived home and needed not one but two cups of tea to be ready for an evening contemplating the remainder of the week.

I started the day optimistic, putting on a piece of jewelry for the first time in 85 days. It was a simple pendant I had made for myself years ago, with antique amber, turquoise and silver beads. It cheered me immensely to be able to look at it through the day and to feel as though life was changing positively. I met face-to-face with a work colleague and had a collegial conversation. Face-to-face: who ever thought this would be such a hopeful concept?

And then the day turned. There were emails I couldn’t keep up with, difficult conversations, and the beginning of a headache. The hopefulness of the morning was quickly replaced by virtual observations: “I-like-things-the way-they-are.”

Perhaps my problem is that I have been working face-to-face and have never stopped. Each day, it has been possible for me to observe the difference between my in-person patient encounters and my virtual patient encounters. If others have forgotten, I cannot. The effectiveness of having my patient in the room to speak with and listen to is right before me.

While I agree that virtual care is here to stay, I have spent my life understanding a lot of mental health by what I read in people’s faces. I watch an adolescent’s awkward movements and realize that they are anxious. You cannot really notice eyes tearing over the phone or on a laptop screen.  Wringing hands, fast beating heart, tremulousness are all less noticeable on a screen. So is my reaction.

I am beginning to get worried that even the best clinicians are missing obvious signs and symptoms because we are not used to seeing them on a screen. I know that I am missing things, and it worries me.

I come home worried, needing to think. This is a two-cup-of-tea day.

5 thoughts on “My COVID-19 Journal – Day 85

  1. Helen Spenser says:

    I very much relate to what you are saying about face to face versus virtual care .Prior to Covid I always politely declined opportunities to partake in regular telehealth meetings. I had developed a practice of assessing younger children 4 to 8 years of age through a type of play assessment using joint drawing ( Winnicot’s squiggle game and interactive puppetry. It never seemed natural to me to expect a child to sit still in a chair for fifty minutes .
    Facial expressions and body language were key to getting to know the fears and expectations of a youngster.
    In my virtual assessments for Melrose family health team since Covid, I tried to be creative. One day I tried to set up a play date between a mother and her five year old in the same way that I would have carried it out in my office in person. Following the instructions the five year old looked at me and said ” Lady Doctor, my mom does not play, can we just talk. ?”
    So much for an attempt to fit a round peg into a square hole!!
    Helen Spenser

    1. drgailbeck says:

      Helen, thank you for reading and for this thoughtful comment. I am beginning to be worried about how incapacitated we have become because of fear, but is that correct? Is that what has happened?

  2. Katherine says:

    Hi Gail, I am worried too but worried that everything is opening up too soon. The case numbers remain high and still people are rating to go with summer. Already I see large groups of people in the park and others oblivious to social distancing. I have to bring myself back to this moment, a socially distanced walk with my granddaughter, a beautiful day outside. Always returning to this very moment. Stay safe and be kind to yourself!

    1. drgailbeck says:

      Hi Katherine, the need to do some activities face-to-face and “opening up” are two different things in my mind. I think there are many people who did not completely understand what we had to do because we were underprepared for many patients very sick with COVID-19 – and we still are.

      1. Katherine says:

        Hi Gail, I think I placed my comment on the wrong day of your blog! It doesn’t seem to apply to this post at all! I must have been in a fog. Sorry!

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