Like many healthcare professionals the world over, Oregon’s physicians, physician assistants, and other healthcare professionals are facing an unprecedented challenge, perhaps the most urgent of their careers. Given the scope of the problem presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be easy—and understandable—for clinicians to feel overwhelmed.
It was Hippocrates who stated, “Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.” We have never before seen a moment, both for those currently delivering care and those receiving care, in which this statement has rung so very true. We see increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in Oregon daily, and the first tenet of disease prevention is key: social distancing to decrease the spread. We cannot shift away from this very important principle, even as we still explore all viable options for treatments. If we are not successful, we will overwhelm our state’s medical resources, which, like those of all states, are limited.
Physicians are scientists. We are trained in science, and we practice by science. In an era in which no person lacks for access to information, it is vitally important to adhere to the scientific principles of disease treatment and prevention, even when that science is changing. We cannot allow ourselves to listen to rhetoric.
Oregon physicians and physician assistants have partnered for years with nurses, nurse practitioners, other healthcare workers, and public health partners such as the Oregon Health Authority to focus on maximizing optimal health for Oregonians. We now shift to a different model for which many of us are unprepared. Our daily regimen in the clinics and hospitals of today is vastly different from that of even three weeks ago. Non-emergent procedures and treatments have been postponed to maximize personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. The resource squeeze is creating fear in the workplace, from the perspectives of both the public and healthcare professionals. We need to acknowledge this and come up with workable solutions.
To Oregon’s healthcare professionals, I say: you are not alone. We are a community, and that community is here for you now. We value your care, your compassion, and your professionalism, now more than ever. When you need information on the current crisis, access sound resources like online COVID-19 material from the OHA
or the OMA
. When you’re under stress, don’t forget to focus on your own wellness. Take the necessary preventative steps to keep yourself healthy, and by extension, to keep your patients and families healthy.
Last September, when I became President of the Oregon Medical Association and had the opportunity to deliver remarks, I spoke of the need to address trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and a focus on behavioral health. We are all now at a point of realization that trauma associated with COVID-19 will occur, and we will need to be ready to address this trauma as our reality. I also spoke then of the increased need to build resiliency to combat the effects of trauma. This resiliency can only occur by acknowledging the enormity of the task, by ensuring that our communication skills regarding our emotions and feelings are improved, and by preserving the purity of the doctor-patient relationship—to cure those we can, to treat as many as we can, and to comfort those we are not able to successfully treat.
To the people of Oregon, I say: I am in awe hearing about personal stories of kindness, organizations and communities coming together to help one another, and the outpouring of community support for those of us on the front lines in healthcare. This is how we build resilient communities. But please, help us continue to help you. Give us a smile and a thank you, ask us how we are doing, and continue to practice solid preventive social distancing.
To my colleagues, thank you for what you are doing to “cure sometimes, treat often, and comfort always.”