I took two weeks off over the holiday. This is the most vacation time I have had since January 2020. Like many of my colleagues, I have been working directly with patients: on an inpatient unit and in a school.
While I was away from this clinical work for two full weeks, there was one thing I could not escape. I could not escape from COVID-19. I think about the virus constantly. I can’t help but wonder: am I the only doctor like this? For two weeks I thought about how much this pandemic has filled my thoughts.
I thought about COVID-19 while I was making Christmas dinner. I considered the recent surge of cases while I wrapped parcels to friends and family. I read up on the vaccine as a “leisure” activity. I watched news reports and podcasts.
I thought about going to a store to pick up an item I thought might be nice for one of my sons for Christmas. I drove past a mall, looked at the number of cars in the parking lot and decided I couldn’t go in. I checked out the small businesses in my neighbourhood and many were closed. I completed one purchase by curbside pickup. The business owner told me that it was the only sale they’d made that day.
The longer I thought about it, the more I realized that most doctors are probably like me. Most doctors probably cannot get the pandemic out of their minds. When it became obvious that the vaccine wasn’t being distributed fast enough, I could hear the desperation in family doctors’ voices on the news as they begged to help.
Since I suspect that most doctors are like me, I’ll bet that they are also thinking of the pandemic all the time. Like me, they probably thought about the pandemic even when they were supposed to be off duty, thinking about Christmas decorations and mincemeat tarts. They probably also read up on the vaccines.
The irony of this is that I don’t even have one of the dangerous physician jobs. I don’t work in an ICU or an emergency room where I might be exposed to patients suffering with COVID-19. My patients are young, physically healthy for the most part. I am unlikely to see any patient or family who is trying to manage the terrible illness that can be caused by this virus. But still, I am preoccupied My heart goes out to my colleagues who have witnessed the worst of this pandemic.
Even though I have not faced the worst of the pandemic, it is always in my mind.
Toward the end of my time off, some of my colleagues’ moods seemed to lighten as I watched the news. Some of my colleagues were hopeful, and today I realized why. Today, like many of my colleagues, I was able to receive the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine!
I have reading abut the vaccines. I have received the first dose of vaccine. As I read through all of the material again, I realize that this is the game changer and my reflections on the way forward are hopeful.