To the Editor:
“I don’t let my people die alone.”
Those were the words my grandfather’s nurse said to me as she cared for him on the night I learned that he was nearing the end of his brief yet courageous battle with COVID-19. Although her shift was ending soon, she planned to spend the next few hours in my grandfather’s room, off the clock, “just in case.”
Scarcities of personal protective equipment, the lack of a cure, and the fear of a patient dying alone are just some of the motivations that have prompted health care professionals across the nation to redefine how far they will go for the good of their patients, knowingly sacrificing their safety. The Hippocratic Oath does not necessitate that physicians knowingly risk their lives by going to work each day. Nevertheless, as the number of health care workers across the country contracting COVID-19 rises, the integrity of our health care system has not faltered.
Am I satisfied with the evident lack of preparation for a pandemic that has been on display in the wake of COVID-19? No, of course not. Also, I must admit that, as a rising second-year medical student, I certainly have much to learn before I am equipped to serve patients on the frontlines during a pandemic. However, the strength and courage the faculty at my medical school have displayed as they staff the hospital here in eastern North Carolina has provided me with the confidence to push forward into the unknown. Confidence that bravery paired with love and compassion for human life will be the catalyst for a necessary change to adequately serve patients in the face of the next pandemic.
I have never been surer of my decision to become a physician, and I am wholeheartedly grateful for the opportunity to do so, no matter the risk.