Five months ago, most of us in the medical profession were where you are now. Unsure of what our jobs would look like in the next few weeks and months as well as concerned about our health and that of our families. Who would be making our work place decisions and would they have both the health of medical providers as well as patients in mind. Would we have access to protective gear as well as tests so that we would know who was infected. Would our most vulnerable patients have access to sufficient medical care. The good news is that we are 5 months smarter than we were and have better answers to the questions. The bad news is that we are 5 months down the road and still seeing increasing cases as well as the ongoing belief from some that this is still a “hoax”.
If I could give you some advice, this is what I have learned.
- Best practices will change weekly. This is not just due to improved information but also due to rising and decreasing (hopefully!) prevalence in your area. Often when I see a neglected email about an updated protocol, I don’t bother to read it if more than 3 days old because I know there will be an updated version before I finish reading the previous protocol. Get used to change as this is a new virus and we are constantly learning more each day
- Trust the people who are making the decisions that drive the protocols. You may not always agree, but you will waste much needed energy if you try to second guess the decisions. This is a time to adopt a military attitude; decisions made at the top that are carried out without debate from those on the front line.
- Realize that the parents/students/teachers who disagree with a decision will be the ones who make the most noise. The crowd that agrees will be busy working and getting sh*t done (per usual).
- Healthcare and education are both inequitable. This is a time when we need to put more effort into those patients/students who could suffer greater harm. In my profession, we rapidly created a modified obstetrics schedule for high risk and low risk patients, with less in office visits for low risk patients so that we could devote our limited use of PPE to high risk patients that required more face to face time. Teachers will need to find creative ways to do the same.
- Share ideas that work both within and outside your school. The amount of conference calls/journal articles/social media groups that I listened to or read helped me feel that there were others who had the same frustrations and also the same successes.
- Thinking about returning to the classroom is much more scary than actually being in the classroom with students. It only takes a few weeks to get used to wearing a mask for 8 hours, most teachers were already washing their hands numerous times during the school day and now you don’t have to see runny noses on students as said nose will be behind a mask. Good news is that we should see a much lower incidence of colds and influenza this fall. Australia and South America, which are now in their winter, have already seen dramatic drops in these illnesses as the practices that prevent Covid also reduce other virally transmitted diseases.
- Finally – you will hear many more appreciative comments and thank yous. In the early days of Covid, it always put a smile on my face when I saw the chalk thank you drawings on the hospital sidewalks. Parents remember all to well the difficulties they encountered teaching their children in the spring. I am hopeful that they will have a new appreciation for the job that you do and be willing to help their children navigate the unknown road ahead.