Keep Your Powder Dry!

As a medical doctor, I have worked in specialised academic medicine my entire life and have a pretty good understanding of both the epidemiology as well as the medical, economic, and societal challenges ahead of us. 

My own clinic, as many other out-patient clinics, are grinding to a halt as patients cancel visits, elective surgeries are put on hold and personnel is about to be deployed elsewhere in the system. I’m thus very much tempted to run into the hospital and try to help out my colleagues working in emergency and on the wards. 

I am of course happy and willing to help out where I can – but truthfully – it’s been 20 years since I last attended to patients on a ward (I have never done this in Canada!), it’s also been almost 30 years since I last intubated, ventilated, or resuscitated a patient. Were I to hurry onto a ward now to help out, I would not only not know what to do, I would likely hamper my colleagues with my questions and ignorance. At this time, perhaps my best response is to just stay out of their way.

But there is more – as we are seeing in China, Italy and elsewhere, sooner or later the frontline providers will be infected and will either have to self-quarantine or themselves become patients. This means that a second line of providers who remain unexposed and healthy needs to stand ready to take their place – clearly, we need to avoid a “surge” of infected medical personnel, so that 3 or 4 weeks from now we still have enough man power to staff the hospitals.

So, I for one, and my advice to my colleagues is, stay at home and isolate yourself until such times (and I am sure they will come), when you are called up on to replace the colleagues who are at the front lines today. Your best chance to help them, is to be fit and healthy when it is your time to step up to the plate – in other words, keep your powder dry!

When my time comes to step up, I can only hope that working on the wards and ICU is like riding a bike and it all comes back to me as though it was just yesterday. 

I realise that for doctors as for everyone else, staying at home means lost income – most docs are small business owners with employees and rents to pay – hard times for sure. However, please do practice social distancing and stay at home – you will be needed in the days to come – till then, do all you can to prepare yourself and keep yourself as mentally and physically prepared to face what may well be the biggest personal and professional challenge of our lifetime.

Stay safe!

Edmonton, AB