As I write this, I am sitting at an entrance to one of the hospital doors at the facility where I work, screening the few patients that are still allowed to be seen. I have a face mask that I've held on to for going on two weeks now. I clean it with rubbing alcohol at end of each day, and safely put it in my desk drawer for another day because I know I won't get another one. Supplies are low everywhere, as you may have heard on the news.
I am currently no longer treating patients myself. My colleagues and I were instructed to completely clear our schedules except for "essential" patients, meaning those who just got out of surgery days before our orthopedic team stopped performing them. The surgical outcomes of those essential patients would be compromised if they didn't get rehab services, so we have two clinicians still treating those patients. As for all of the rest of our clinic's patients, we had to say, "Carry on without us, stay healthy, and we'll see you in May at the earliest." This means some of my patients with ailments such as chronic pain, poor balance that elevates their fall risk, and acute low back pain that makes even minor movements debilitating aren't getting rehab services due to our current state of affairs.
On the flip side, I have colleagues in my professional world who are still seeing patients as they wear protective equipment. My inpatient colleagues are wearing protective equipment and treating those who are in isolation in the hospital unit but still need rehab care. Another one of my friends is a home health physical therapist and is seeing patients as well. It's essential that he do so, otherwise these people who are already home-bound due to their health condition would otherwise not get care at all, and by seeing them he's keeping them out of the hospitals.
I share this to paint a realistic picture of the physical therapy world right now. Like all of you, daily life in rehab is turned on its head. My colleagues and I are doing jobs we'd never do in a typical work day otherwise (i.e. taking people's temperatures, door screening, and acting as a "runner" to deliver items to and from the COVID-19 testing tent in our parking lot.) I realize how fortunate I am that I get to go to work daily. Yes, I am aware that I am technically at an increased risk of contracting the virus due to working in a health care facility, but I feel good about doing my small part in contributing to the greater good as we all try to get through this.
In speaking with a colleague who has experience training for crises, he reminded me that times like this amplify feelings of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. We are asked to stay home, which disrupts our world, we don't know when this will end, and some may wonder how the bills will get paid. Those are all valid feelings and completely understandable. If you are feeling any of those unsettling feelings, I want to offer a suggestion: If you notice your thoughts spiraling downward, take a moment and flip the thought to one that's positive by the practice of gratitude. I have found it's a tremendous help for myself in striving to stay calm and centered. It also brings me back to focusing on what's most important in my life.
Let me give you a few examples:
Unsettled Thought Thought of Gratitude
-I wish I didn't have to stay inside. -I am grateful to have a place to live.
-This is really messing with my plans. -I am grateful for my health and the health of my
family and friends.
-When will this end?! -I am grateful for my senses to see and hear the
trees/birds/voices/world around me in this
It's a strange time right now, but I'm feeling grateful to be able to help do my part in getting through this time as safely and swiftly as possible. Thank you to all of the health care workers and those who work at the grocery stores and other essential businesses that are still open and contributing to our communities. May we all be safe, healthy, and gracious. For what are you grateful?