What was it Like to be a Doctor During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

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Grace Huang, Journalist, Editor

Now that the vaccine for COVID-19 (mRNA-1273) has come out, there is no doubt a collective subconscious feeling of relief among all of us, whether we were directly affected by COVID-19 or not. Doctors and social workers are the first to get vaccinated, and rightfully so. On the front lines battling this disease are doctors working at the hospital, across phone and video calls at home, nurses in the emergency rooms overnight. Yanling Xu, a doctor working at Kaiser Permanente in South San Francisco, experienced all of it first-hand.

“After COVID-19 was announced as a global pandemic,” she says, “the hospital changed. Right now if you enter the hospital, the first thing you would see is a giant infrared thermometer.” She describes the situation as “days of phone calls and hospital work.” She took care of the less serious cases over video meets at home, and went to the hospital on other days to take care of the patients with life-threatening issues. “In rare cases, people died from COVID. We had to be very cautious.” In the beginning, there was barely time to rest. 

“Initially, we were fumbling around a little; I do think we advanced in the situation relatively well. There was a visible difference from the beginning – we struggled to get everyone tested for COVID – compared to the end.” Doctor Xu says that understanding the importance of mental health is essential. It’s a vital skill to be able to compartmentalize and not let yourself get overwhelmed. “The mental stress and anxiety was something I’m sure many many people had to deal with. Seeing people coming in each day because of a fear of COVID – it was hard to reassure them when they were panicked and you were tired and stressed, but I’m sure we all experienced our own share of mental stress to a degree.” 

The situation did improve, though, however slowly the process was. “In the end,” Doctor Xu says, “Almost everyone that could get tested was tested.” She describes the pandemic as a stressful experience, but thinks it helped some people realize the importance of taking action and being knowledgeable enough to understand what to do. “This pandemic really brought out the core of modern medicine. Everything seemed amplified.”

Doctor Xu concludes, “We feel privileged to be able to serve the community, so we always try our best to help patients, both COVID-19 victims and non-COVID-19 victims.” Truthfully, I think there’s a certain pride that can be felt when someone has an effect on another person’s life. Not many people have the chance to know what it feels like at the front line of a battle. Now that the vaccine is being distributed, the battle may finally be coming to an end.

Remember to be thankful to all the people that helped us make it through to now.