Doctors are given the respect of a God-like figure. Their profession is all about connecting with the patients, making them feel comfortable, boosting their willpower and treating them right so that they can cure the patients of any illness and save their lives. But the novel coronavirus pandemic has taken away this very essence of being a doctor or a healthcare professional and forced the workers to reset their ways of treatment. But, is it a good sign for the mental health of these front liners?
Nidhi Rao, a doctor based in Chennai said, “I used to know all the details of the patient I was supposed to treat. The medical history to the way the patient reacts to certain medication techniques, almost everything. But now, the number of patients is increasing a triple fold within just a span of a day or a week. With this kind of tidal wave of patients, and when I am always covered head-to-toe in the PPE, how is it possible for me to know about the patient who has been brought into ICU just 10 minutes ago? I don’t even get enough time to bond and connect with my patients for them to trust me with their lives. Doctor-Patient bond is based on trust and for me, this is the cornerstone of my profession. And this is the very thing I am not able to do with the pandemic…”
Around 80% of the doctors and nurses are swamped with work and treating every patient urgently. In this process, interacting or knowing the patient’s details is almost impossible, hence for healthcare workers, the satisfaction of a job well done is missing. And no one, this particular aspect of the new-work routine leaves most of them feeling inadequate.
Dr Nidhi confirmed this inadequacy when she said, “I don’t even feel like I am doing my job well enough. Yes, I am working for longer hours, looking after more than 20 patients a day and treating them, but am I actually looking after them? I don’t even know the names of all the patients for God’s sake. All we know is the number of the patients. Would I be able to connect with this number the same way as I would with a name and another human being with a life, goals, wishes and desires just like me?
Looking at these patients through my face shields and masks nowadays makes me feel nothing less than a scientist in his laboratory, experimenting with the changes and improvements in his subject. And I hate this way of treatment. Sometimes when the patients look me in the eye, as that is all that’s visible to us through the PPE, I can see so many unexpressed questions and hopes that they want validation from me, but I am not able to reach out thanks to the paucity of time. These are the worst times I face, at least 10 times a day, something I’ve been doing for months now and I am still not used to this feeling… Would I be a bad or incompetent doctor then???”