'This is not how we do medicine': local doctors struggle with mental health during the pandemic
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor physicians Dr. Wendy Kennette and Dr. Riley Jakob say their jobs have changed dramatically during the pandemic, and it impacts their overall mental health.
“There’s an element of moral distress that we’re all dealing with because this is not how we do medicine,” says Kennette, a palliative physician.
“We pride ourselves on not only taking care of the patients but also their family. So now I’m doing that over the phone, we’re doing video chats, it’s just not the same experience.”
Kennette says in many cases she and the healthcare staff are the only ones with a person at “end of life” which goes against her oath to care for patients and their families.
“We’ve basically taken on a family role for some of these patients and we know were not a substitution,” she said.
“I don’t think in a million years I ever could have imagined being part of something like this, certainly not being knee-deep, right on the front lines of things,” says Jakob.
An ICU and ER physician, Jakob says it was common practice to take patients’ families along during “rounds” to explain all the life-saving measures being taken for their loved ones.
But COVID has put a stop to that.
“They don’t see all the equipment, they don’t see all the tubes all the medication that we’re doing, they don’t see how hard our nursing staff, our RT staff are working on their loved ones,” Jakob said.
Both doctors say the added emotional stress on their already hectic jobs is taking a toll on their mental health.
“Even before going into this pandemic, there was a high rate of physical burnout within our system there’s more and more for us to do with less and less, so a lot of us were already on that brink of burnout before,” says Kennette.
“Even after these 36 hours shifts, we go home and it’s hard not to think about work when I’m at home because I’m thinking about my colleagues who are still there trying to get through these long hours,” says Jakob.
But both doctors say they turn to their colleagues for moral support, now more than ever before.
“A lot of good has come out of the pandemic in a kind of weird way, I think it’s made us all reach out to each other, just for support,” says Kennette.
“We know that this is a marathon, this isn’t a sprint, and we know it’s going to be a long time and we need all of our frontline workers healthy and present if we’re going to get through this,” says Jakob.