COVID Forced a Unity of Purpose
‘I love medicine … I hate the system’
“I love medicine. I love being a doctor and helping people. I really love infectious diseases. I love that we can cure people, that someone can get a few weeks of IV [intravenous] antibiotics and resume their previous activities,” she writes, adding, “I hate the system. I dislike that I can’t follow some patients out of the hospital because they have the wrong (or no) insurance.”
When COVID-19 hit, it was necessary for physicians to communicate among themselves and across departments to discuss how they would handle any number of given scenarios. Now things are settling back to a new normal that Kaufman finds less than fulfilling.
“I think a lot of the burnout that I’m suffering from now has to do with the fact that I got to see, however briefly, how good it can be when we all — physicians, nurses, environmental services, engineers, administrators, and even the healthcare system at large — have the same goal,” she wrote. “I do love medicine, and being an ID [infectious disease] physician is the best part of that. But until we physicians can, collectively, demand a better system — to improve patient care and patient outcomes, to reduce the ballooning costs of healthcare and to return the humanity to medicine — I fear we will toil like Sisyphus, damned to the same old routine where patients and physicians can never win.”
- Kaufmann E. Medicine can be better: COVID showed us how. Science Speaks. Infectious Diseases Society of America. Published Aug. 11, 2023. https://www.idsociety.org/science-speaks-blog/2023/medicine-can-be-better-covid-showed-us-how/#/+/0/publishedDate_na_dt/desc/
Writing a “Science Speaks” blog on the website of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Erica Kaufman West, MD, went through highs and lows of the pandemic before ultimately returning to business as usual, rolling a rock senselessly up a hill like the Greek mythic figure Sisyphus.
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