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Scrubs and Sacrifice: The Day-to-Day Our Medical Heroes Face Because of COVID-19

We’ve all known that medical workers are some of the most selfless and caring people to ever exist, but how are our heroes holding up amidst this COVID-19 crisis and what kind of struggles are they facing?

I talked to three different medical workers from the Memphis area and have gotten their perspectives on the situation at hand. There are a lot of reasons to praise medical workers, but during my interviews I noticed three particular attributes that have been highlighted by the dire straits of the COVID-19 crisis: 

Out of respect for the medical workers, we will keep their names anonymous.

Adaptability to the Extreme:

All of the medical workers I’ve interviewed work with immunocompromised patients, either in the trauma center or the transplant unit, and they sometimes “work with contagious patients for around four hours without knowing it.” At the beginning of the outbreak, and possibly now, since the number of cases has had a recent spike, they “were made to work mandatory overtime,” due to the sheer number of patients circulating through the hospitals on a daily basis. Medical workers have also had to adapt to a shortage of medical supplies. One of the health workers I talked to said that they “take up our N95s after each shift and then they sanitize them, which is off-label use to salvage PPE (personal protective equipment).” Long story short, medical workers are making it work, despite a dearth of medical equipment, treating highly contagious COVID-19 patients, all the while still managing to do their best to heal the people that need their help. 

Handling Changes in Procedure with Grace:

Regulations in medical procedures have been rapidly changing to adjust to the difficulties created by this pandemic. In between trying to tackle issues of infection and trying not to stir up fear of the pandemic, medical workers went from wearing masks just during procedures to having to wear them the moment that they enter the building. One of the medical workers that I interviewed informed me that “From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization disseminating all the way down to regulations put in place by hospital officials, the terms and definitions of what should and shouldn’t be done are still changing daily,” and still medical workers are able to adapt to the steadily changing environments for the benefit of themselves and others. 

Fortitude in the Face of Emotional Distress:

Naturally, this is a very emotionally troubling time and though we’re all faced with stressful situations on the daily, medical workers are certainly seeing the worst of it. All three of the medical workers that I interviewed said that working during COVID-19 has been “mentally, physically, and emotionally taxing.” Not to mention the fact that, since visitations have been all but banned, the medical workers are “having to see people who didn’t survive the virus, who had to die alone—and seeing their loved ones have to do that through a pane of glass…it’s a lot.” It’s got to be difficult to watch so many people go through that process, but medical workers still go into work even though their mental welfare and lives are on the line. 

Yes, the pandemic has presented new struggles for medical workers, but the pandemic didn’t turn them into heroes—they’ve been that from the jump. If nothing else, this pandemic has cast light on the selfless acts of medical workers and how essential they are to taking care of and maintaining society. 

Photo: Morgan Pattison

I know that we’re all really sick of quarantine and sheltering-in-place, but this is bigger than all of us. If we truly want to pay homage to the medical workers risking their lives, then the very least that we can do is slow down the spread by only going out—with a mask—when necessary. Considering that other essential workers are experiencing the same fears and anxieties that these medical workers do, let’s all try to be more mindful to the situation at hand. Saying that times are tough right now is an understatement, but in order to kick this crisis, we need to stand united today to stand together tomorrow. 

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