Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Summer 2020 - 15

Coronavirus Chronicles: Berks Responds

Seeing Each Other
by a Different Light
by Kristen Sandel, MD
Emergency Physician

A

s I reflect on the past few months during the Covid-19
pandemic, there have been numerous articles written about
the virus itself, epidemiology, treatment protocols, and
breaking medical research. What has been lacking in some of these
assessments is how this novel virus has affected the way we see each
other in health care as well as some of the lessons learned about our
patients and community.
In speaking with Emergency health care workers across the
spectrum (nurses, medics, patient care assistants, advanced practice
providers, physicians, etc.), we agree that we have become a more
cohesive unit as a whole. The amount of empathy and compassion
that we now show each other is more than we have ever seen in our
careers. In the past, while we appreciated everyone's role on the
team, we did not always express our respect for each other. We also
noticed a sizable improvement in our communication amongst the
team. Whether it is triaging a patient with the paramedics in the
ambulance bay to assess for virus risk or working to resuscitate a
patient, we have been more cognizant of our verbal and non-verbal
communication, ensuring that the patient and each member of the
team remain safe.
We have also learned a great deal about our patient population.
The Emergency Department treats many older adults who have
hearing disabilities and rely heavily on reading our lips. Only when
we donned masks at all times did we realize the extent of this issue
within a large segment of our patient population. We also were
more mindful of our dementia patients who now have a team of
professionals in full personal protective equipment (PPE) caring for
them, but do not understand why we are wearing these items. The
Emergency Department may have seemed like a scarier and less
friendly environment to these patients if we did not communicate
extensively with them and make them feel safe and secure.
We learned that there were fewer "medical emergencies," with
more patients calling the Emergency Department to assess if their
symptoms warranted a visit rather than dialing an ambulance or
immediately coming by car. Patients did not want to be exposed
or expose others to this debilitating virus, and many sought care
in alternate environments with telemedicine visits or in Urgent
Care settings. Patients who did seek care in our department were
extremely kind, many thanking us for everything that we do on a
daily basis.
We learned that the community really appreciated our efforts
as frontline providers and were very generous in their support.
Whether it was car parades, candlelights, cards with words of

encouragement and thanks, or the tremendous amount of food that
was provided, the community rallied around the hospitals, giving us
hope and support when we needed it the most.
The pandemic has forever changed the landscape of healthcare,
but there are many positives that will be taken away from this time.
Although we do not know what will be written medically about this
pandemic in the years to come, we did learn to better appreciate
each other, each patient, and our community as a whole.

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Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Summer 2020

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Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Summer 2020 - 2
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