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What We Owe to Healthcare Workers Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

I'm a Physician's Wife, and This Is the Most Important Thing You Can Do to Support Doctors

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My husband is an ob-gyn at one of the largest hospitals in Detroit, which has seen a surge in cases of COVID-19. For now, he continues to see patients on the ob-gyn floor, visiting the emergency room only for pregnancy- or gynecology-related consults, which occasionally involve patients who are infected with the novel coronavirus. But as the hospital becomes more overwhelmed with cases of COVID-19, strategic measures are being put in place that may eventually require him to assist his fellow doctors and nurses in treating those who are sick.

As the infection rate skyrockets and the death toll mounts, I keep reminding myself that my husband is healthy, and his body is capable of fighting off a virus, however novel it may be. Even if he were to transmit the virus to me or our young daughter, we would likely recover without experiencing any complications, as most people do. It has taken some time, but today I'm not nearly as worried about us as I am about other healthcare workers and the patients who truly need care.

Because I'm married to a doctor, I know more about hospital policies and what's happening on the front lines than most. I know that healthcare professionals are even more exhausted than usual from treating an inordinate number of patients. I know that at times doctors and nurses haven't been able to access the personal protective equipment they need. And I also know that many patients — and those who aren't sick, for that matter — ignore the recommendations of doctors. In this case, those recommendations are essential in helping COVID-19 patients recover and preventing the further spread of a deadly virus.

Together we can ease the burden on healthcare workers and overcome COVID-19, but it will take all of us.

Every medical doctor has taken an oath to care for patients to the best of their abilities. The doctors I know would never break that oath. When my husband graduated from medical school, I watched as seasoned physicians and anxious interns alike recited the oath with their whole heart, with tears in their eyes, and with every intention of living up to it. Now, as doctors turn that promise into action, they'll push through the exhaustion in order to help the growing number of patients who fill their ERs. They'll work without a mask if needed, and in turn, sacrifice holding their babies at night. And they'll continue to care for those patients who return to the hospital worse than when they left, no matter the circumstances that led them there.

The Hippocratic Oath says, "I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow." I see this pledge in the eyes of masked physicians across the world, as they study what others have learned about this virus and then treat patients without hesitation, no matter how mentally or physically draining it may be.

Out of respect for the healthcare professionals who are working tirelessly to protect us, let's make the same promise to them. Let's vow to respect the hard-won scientific gains they've made in understanding COVID-19 and put those recommendations into practice in our own lives — and let's make sure our friends, family, and neighbors do the same. Together we can ease the burden on healthcare workers and overcome COVID-19, but it will take all of us.

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