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.