These last two years have been extremely challenging for most health care professionals. Watching society challenge essential health and science principles that we have known to be fact has been difficult to bear. Being villainized, health care workers went from being hailed “health care heroes” to being the target of hate, violence, and disregard.
These past few years have been a year of reckoning in many ways. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reckon with the shortcomings of our health care system, the racial disparities that exist within it, and how we as individuals can be complicit in systemic injustice. It has been a year of loss and grief and a year of hope and resilience. Health care workers have continued to show up day after day to care for patients and save lives, despite the immense personal risk. We have shown each other and the world that we are strong, adaptable, and capable of so much more than we ever thought possible.
However, the pandemic has reminded us that we are humans, and there comes the point in time where we reach our breaking point. We are not machines, and we cannot keep going at this pace forever. So we need to take time to heal, rest, and recharge.
It has been over two years since the pandemic began and looking back, it is hard to believe how much has changed. So much has been lost, but we have also gained so much. We have learned more about ourselves and each other, and we have understood the importance of taking care of our mental health. We have seen the power of community and connection, and we have realized that we are all in this together.
I am encouraged by the increased awareness of wellness among doctors. We are finally starting to talk openly about the factors that lead to burnout and its impact on our lives and work. I hope that this conversation will continue long after the pandemic is over and that it will lead to lasting change in how we value and support our health care professionals. Health and wellness need to be normalized in training, hospital systems, and insurance policies.
As we look forward, let us remember the lessons we have learned. I have seen first-hand the wellness of my colleagues deteriorate as we burn out from the demands of the pandemic. I have seen the results of being self-aware during a challenging situation compared to others who appear to be in denial of real-life challenges. We need to remember that we are all different, which is OK. We also need to be mindful of our words and actions. We can all make a difference in someone’s life, whether it is a positive or negative impact. Let us choose to be the light for others during these difficult times.
The pandemic has forced us to change how we live, work, and interact with each other. It has been a time of great challenge but also of great opportunity. However, to overcome the difficulties, we need to rise to the occasion and stand up for what we know is true. As physicians and health care providers, we have gone through the marathon and sometimes sprint of post-secondary training, graduate training, and residencies and fellowships. We know what it is like to sacrifice and have limited social contacts due to the extreme demands of our training. Physicians, in some way, our training has prepared us for where we are right now in society. If we look back in history, we can see what happens when society dares to stand up for what is right, even though it might not be easy.
We are the voice of reason, the scientific experts, and the advocates for our patients. We will continue to rise to meet whatever challenges lie ahead. Together, we can overcome anything.
Tomi Mitchell is a family physician and founder, Dr. Tomi Mitchell Holistic Wellness Strategies. She can be reached on Twitter @DrTomiMitchell, Facebook, Pinterest, and Clubhouse.