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COVID-19: Where is the PPE?

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

Dr. Samantha Gelman PGY-2 Internal Medicine Resident

It's been how long since this whole mess started? And here we are, still searching for the million dollar question, "where is the PPE?". This PPE question is not only for the government but also for the companies that can make them, the hospitals that can buy them, the residency leadership who can support their residents in making sure we are receiving them, etc. Everyone is out here playing the blame game but instead people need to start taking action in the realms they have control over. Yes, I may not be able to provide PPE for my entire hospital but I can at least try to support my colleagues in any way I can. Little things go a long way and if we help each other we can lessen this ENTIRE issue.

Let us delve into this further as this lack of PPE is requiring us to reuse masks till God knows when! Just so you know, CDC guidelines change as often as I change my underwear. Hey, I get it as there are shortages of healthcare workers and supplies so we will naturally go into the next model of things by saying that you can use a scarf as a facemask (because some form of protection is better than none, but let's be real here) or that you can reuse your N95 mask a million times (said no one ever before this pandemic) or that you can come to work if you are asymptomatic or have a negative test even with close positive contacts (although some of us may be false negatives still carrying a disease we can transmit). But, we should also not downplay the reason why we are saying it is okay to do these things. Be honest, tell us you need people to work and you need people to do something rather than nothing. It might make me a little happier to be in the current position that I'm in instead of being continuously lied too.

Moving on to the next part of my rant. Let's talk about us, RESIDENTS, of course. We are being forced to work without the aforementioned equipment and then subsequently are getting sick. Why are we hiding this? Why are residents walking around thinking that they will be okay when they might not be? I know we don't want to create hysteria but it's a little too late for that. Can we just say that if our work environment was safe enough maybe we would be more eager to put our asses on the #frontlines.

Additionally, why are attending physicians throwing us in the front lines before themselves? Now, I'm not saying this is happening at my personal institution but we all have heard horror stories where attendings are refusing to see these patients at the expense of their residents. That's a horrible thing to do and also might not be legal in the grand scheme of things... Oh how this world is unraveling.

Another thing to allude to these points, is the beautiful concept of "unions". They are out there getting what they need for those who are in them (since you know most of the unionized healthcare workers are also putting themselves in harms way). And that is all great for them! But, residents can't unionize (for the most part) and you know what I'm getting at here... Where is our #HAZARDPAY? It's only logical that even though I'm still training, not all of us are trying to become intensivists or emergency medicine physicians. Putting specialties aside, many of us also didn't go into this profession thinking we would one day fall like soldiers during a war. But even then, they keep regarding this as a "learning opportunity" we are missing out on. I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm okay to miss out on THIS learning opportunity if it means I avoid putting my patients in harm's way and save my own life in the process. However, if I'm being forced to do so I'd like to at least be financially rewarded for it. ESPECIALLY, if other people are. Here's another idea! You can forgive my student loans while we're at it (we all know they were too high to begin with anyway, considering the service we are expected to provide over the next let's say, forty to fifty years). But what do I know? I'm just another resident who lives for complaining.

Finally, and I say this with respect to all healthcare workers (at the very least) although we can apply this to everyone in this world RIGHT NOW. We see the way nurses support each other so why don't we have the same camaraderie amongst physicians? But really amongst all levels of healthcare workers and other people in the frontlines? We all agree that we need all hands on deck but why are some specialties or a specific sect of healthcare workers receiving more credit than others? That seems utterly unfair. Respiratory techs, pharmacists, nurses, physician assistants and physicians all play an integral role. Even the grocery store workers play a huge role in putting themselves at risk every day! No role is more important so why is there a lack of support between everyone? Nurses and physicians should be on the same page during this time, not be tearing each other up about who did what for their patient. Physicians seeming to not be listed as an integral part of this pandemic is a little baffling, as we are the ones treating, intubating and running the codes for these patients. But again it seems like we've really shown our true colors during this pandemic and it makes me ashamed of the world we live in.

With all that said, there is only one thing we are asking for and that is some help. And to be honest, we deserve it. I don't know if this was a pointless rant or not but I know I'm not the only one feeling this way. This entire experience has been a huge lesson for all of us and I hope that out of all of this negative energy we can spread some positive vibes moving forward. God bless everyone and stay safe even if it means upsetting a few people along the way.

- Dr. Samantha Gelman

+ Listen to our NEWEST episode on Coronavirus: Coronavirus Myths here

+ Also check out Coronavirus Basics podcast episode here & Coronavirus Prevention podcast episode here

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