As a junior resident (PGY-2), my initial fear was not so much returning to internal medicine (after all, it was only nine months ago that I was working in an ICU), but losing the progress made so far in my ophthalmology training.
On top of that, I think every health care provider was scared about the risk of exposure and keeping our families safe from us, but it was shocking how quickly it became normal. Although it was hard to remember details about pressors and vent settings, we all quickly settled in with the help of ICU residents and fellows.
The most difficult part of the COVID-19 ICUs is that families cannot visit their loved ones. During intern year, I often got to know patients through their families. Now our conversations are limited to phones or spotty FaceTime connections, which are even more difficult given how loud these makeshift ICUs are (fans everywhere creating negative pressure rooms out of pre-op bays or ORs, and everyone wearing a mask).
It seems though that families understand the gravity of the situation now far better than pre-pandemic times, and sometimes the best thing I can do is to just help a patient's wife or daughter rest better at night instead of calling the ICU every two hours.
I cannot begin to describe how wonderful the camaraderie is among everyone in the ICU, and there is a sense of unspoken duty that I have rarely felt at work before.
But I miss being in the eye clinic, I miss being with my fellow residents, and I miss learning how to be an eye doctor. I'm worried that this lapse in my training will have long-term consequences, but I very much believe that being redeployed to the frontlines is the most important thing I could be doing right now.
About the author: David J. Doobin, MD, is a PGY2 Resident at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York.