Sharing Our Stories: Alumnae Stories from the Pandemic

Tiffany T Pivot Points May 2020Tiffany ’04 (last name and other details have been omitted to respect the privacy of her employer), serves her class as Alumnae Council Representative and is a member of the AADC Black Alumnae Network Jewel Plummer Cobb Sisters Conference Planning Committee. She is a doctor in New Jersey. Here is her story, shared on May 15, 2020:

As an outpatient family medicine physician providing primary care, I may not be on the “frontline” in the emergency department or taking care of patients in the hospital, but I am caring for COVID-19 patients in a different setting.

When patients become sick, they generally call their primary care provider first for advice and treatment. Initially it was thought patients had the flu or another common respiratory virus. The first patients in my practice found to be COVID-19 positive were linked to travel from Europe. Then the news broke of a COVID-19 positive patient who commuted to NYC for work. At this moment it became evident we would quickly see community transmission of COVID-19.

My practice of nine providers decided to move to mostly telemedicine encounters and most days we were completing these encounters at home. We did see some patients in the office but started to decrease these visits once we discovered some of the patients were COVID-19 positive and we had limited personal protective equipment. Very quickly, all providers were seeing 20-25 patients or more virtually each day either by telephone or video conferencing. It was very difficult to adjust to making decisions without taking vital signs and without most aspects of physical examination, although some patients checked their own temperature, heart rate, or blood pressure.

Most patients were calling with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The positive COVID-19 results started to come in one by one. Most of the patients had mild symptoms that could be managed at home and have recovered. There were a small percentage of patients who were directed to the ER due to severe symptoms and many of those were admitted to intensive care. The hospital census was increasing dramatically. As an affiliate physician of the hospital, I was told there may be a possibility I would be needed to help care for patients in the hospital. This has not been necessary as of yet.

Our practice is receiving calls daily about patients who have passed away from COVID-19. As primary care physicians, we get to know our patients very well and it is heartbreaking to receive these phone calls and complete the death certificates for those who passed away at home. The number of telemedicine visits are starting to decrease and the hospital census is starting to decrease. We are slowly starting to see more patients in the office.

The impact of COVID-19 has changed the way we practice medicine. Although we will eventually return to seeing our patients in the office daily, we will likely incorporate telemedicine into our practice permanently in some capacity. My colleagues and staff are an amazing team. We have worked together efficiently and have supported each other through this difficult time. Social distancing is extremely important to slow the spread of COVID-19, but this does not mean social isolation.

I am thankful for support from family and friends although from a distance. All of our lives have been impacted by the pandemic. I encourage everyone to continue social distancing and stay safe.

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