by Kristen Bamberg, PharmD, MS, BCPS, BCCCP
Chair of BPS Specialty Council on Critical Care Pharamcy
Lead Critical Care Pharmacist at Northern Arizona Healthcare in Flagstaff, Arizona
Adjunct Faculty for Midwestern University College of Pharmacy – Glendale (CPG)
COVID-19 has taken such an incredible toll on the healthcare system over the last year, not to mention each and every one of us individually. Like many of you, our facility was on the front edge of the epidemic. We received our first patient in Mid-March of 2020 and ramped up to over 30 critically ill COVID-19 patients by the end of the month. We are a referral center for one of the greatest catchment areas in the nation at almost 50,000 square miles; from Southern Utah to eastern California and Western New Mexico. Residing in this service area is the largest Native American Reservation in the country, the Navajo Nation. My facility has a long and fruitful relationship with the surrounding Indian Health Service Centers and have been proud to be a part of the health and wellbeing of this underserved population for many decades. Unfortunately, these patients were hit hard and early with a significant COVID-19 outbreak, and as a result we were too. One year later, we are tired.
It has been difficult for many of us as healthcare workers to maintain an emotional connection to our purpose. I have seen it in my facility, in myself, and in my colleagues. It’s too much. It has also been difficult to focus on anything but COVID-19 patients, COVID-19 research, and COVID-19 protocols. As board-certified pharmacists no matter the field, I am going to challenge us to start refocusing our efforts on all patients. While many patients and families have sadly suffered directly from the epidemic, many more have also suffered indirectly as local hospitals and clinics have shut down or patients have been unable to get appointments for their chronic condition and to be seen in person by their provider. Think back to the early phase of the pandemic when some chronic hydroxychloroquine patients were struggling to obtain their maintenance medications. The healthcare costs beyond the acute and immediate COVID-19 toll will persist for years.
May is Arthritis Awareness Month, and May 18th is World Autoimmune Arthritis Day. As a fellow patient with arthritis, I understand both sides of this coin. It is incredibly apparent when a provider focuses solely on you, looks you in the eye, and takes even 15 more seconds to make sure you are on the same page. As pharmacists and healthcare heroes, we already devote so much of ourselves to our labor through our time and mental efforts. But what our patients need the most from us right now is empathy. Make sure your patients know you care. It doesn’t take much, but it does take a reset.
We have all been through so much as a society. We are holding our fingertips onto the edge trying to deal with the acute issues. Yet we as a healthcare collective are also struggling to maintain the extra energy to show continued compassion. As board certified pharmacists, we are well versed in diagnostics, assessments, and disease state management. What we need to hold onto is our humanity. Please take a moment during those busy, frenetic days; take a step back and remember why you are here.
Take a minute, take a break, refresh, and renew. The light is beginning to peak out at the end of the tunnel. Focus on it, and keep on walking…