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This COVID-19 Life: Perfecting the Art of the Workaround

​Editor's Note: As neurologists across the country made the transition to telemedicine, so too did they face new challenges in balancing the demands of work, home, and family life. In interviews with Neurology Today, neurologists shared their strategies for achieving that balance for a series of stories around life in the setting of COVID-19. 

Tracey A. Milligan, MD, MS, FAAN, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, said shortly after moving to telemedicine full-time, she found herself trying to talk to a patient struggling with Zoom in Spanish, so she tried to get them another virtual platform, and—at the same time—was sending text messages on her phone trying to get IT help.

"By the time we got things to work the office visit was over and I had another video call waiting and we had to reschedule for next week," Dr. Milligan said. "There's a picture of me with my Zoom headset and mic, another phone headset and mic for the phone, and then a separate computer headset, all of them totally tangled up."

Dr. Milligan said she has seen some real benefits to online medicine, particularly being able to include other family members and caregivers who might not normally be able to attend an inpatient visit. One Friday, she had a telemedicine appointment with a patient in a rehabilitation facility and the patient's physician at the facility was also on the video, along with a family member who lives in a different state.

"It gives us the ability to communicate with everyone," she said.

 With her daughter, a senior in high school and her son, a senior in college, she doesn't have to worry about the kids so much. But she and her husband, who works from home regularly, have had to figure out a way to work around each other, making sure they have their own dedicated work areas.

She used to be really good about leaving work at work. No emails at night or weekends.

"Now that all is completely gone," she said when we caught up with her by phone one Saturday. "I did some emails this morning."

But there are benefits, she said—one of them is that her family makes sure to eat dinner together, and they'll play a game afterwards, or some cards.

Dr. Milligan said she's trying to be aware when she's been at the desk too long. One day her step counter said she'd had 33 steps. Total. For the day. 

"I made sure to go for a nice, long walk," she said.