The nonviral effect of SARS-CoV-2 : JAAPA

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Mindful Practice

The nonviral effect of SARS-CoV-2

Cheeseman, Jasmina PA-C, MLS

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JAAPA 36(3):p 1, March 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/01.JAA.0000918792.26724.58
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COVID-19 has brought fear to many clinicians. I'm not talking about the human fear of contracting the virus and its enduring complications, but the fear of not being able to save our patients. The fear that despite all the advances in medicine, we sometimes remain powerless.

Sure, the CDC and WHO provided me with guidelines and warned me to get ready for what the pandemic might bring. The evidence was clear that older adults were among those most vulnerable to COVID-19. As a logical PA, I acknowledged this fact. However, seeing my older patients fade away so quickly was difficult to accept.

Although death from respiratory failure is not easy to process, watching patients with dementia and their decline hit me the hardest. If they were positive for the virus, I at least had the power to initiate potentially beneficial medications. However, for those who were virus-free in isolation, I didn't have much to offer. Patients with dementia thrive on routine and personal contact from family or familiar staff. With restrictions in place, regimented family visits filled with hugs, smiles, and hand holding were not possible. To an older adult with memory impairment, a video call can't replace the desire for true human interaction. As I used telemedicine to see these patients for severe acute decline, I couldn't help but feel sad that my hands were tied. I couldn't stop the accelerated progression of their disease due to isolation.

I tried to process the frustration and melancholy in constructive ways so I remained professional and sharp for the next patient. I became aware of my feelings. I focused my attention on my sad posture and sat up to correct it. Awareness of how tight my shoulders were and how clenched my jaw was helped remind me to redirect toward a more relaxed state. Through this awareness, I began to accept the situation. Sure, mindfulness helped me get through the day, but it didn't change the fact that I still don't like my reality.

Just like patients with dementia, I find the most comfort when I'm holding the hands of those closest to me. Human touch was scarce during this pandemic, but when attained, it has the power to provide the utmost comfort and reawaken the hopeful rays of light that every clinician needs. So, as I remained in my house away from humanity, I hugged my husband and daughter longer and held their hands more frequently. Human touch is my antidote, and it provides me the energy to keep moving forward.

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