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As A Doctor On The Frontline For COVID-19, Here’s A Question I Want To Ask My Teachers Of Medicine

Posted: May 3, 2020

Most of my school friends were financially stable long before our education was done – we, doctors, have sacrificed that to save lives. And is this what we get?

To my dear teachers in medical school,
The medical education system,
Those esteemed examiners who certified my degrees,

Dear all,

Like all doctors I have been put through years of exhaustive and intensive teaching, rigorous and demanding training; stringent and stern assignments. I assure you I worked quite hard, never counting as a problem the missed moments with my parents and then with my own children, that the rigorous education demanded.

I also want to say that most of my school friends who did not do medicine were financially stable long before our education was done – we, doctors, have sacrificed that to save lives.

But I have a confession to make. I seem to have missed some essential classes. I do not know where I was when those classes were held. Was I in the library, having fallen asleep over some books, or was I busy stitching lacerated wounds at a stretch? The strange thing is, these topics weren’t a part of my exams, else I wouldn’t have done as well as I have, with the academic accolades that I managed to get.

But I soon began to feel this gap

Initially it was a vague discomfort, a feeling of disbelief and of being blindsided, but I continued with applying my knowledge, enhancing its nuances and keeping in touch with newer developments. But none of the medical conferences, scientific discussions and workshops that I attended threw any light on HOW I had missed this crucial training.

Yes, crucial, because since the Coronavirus pandemic has begun, with us doctors and other healthcare workers giving our all for this, I have started hearing from other doctors too, on social media, that many of them too seem to have missed them, and we need to have remedial classes.

When doctors are thrown out of their homes

On behalf of all of us, I sincerely put forwards the following request:

Please arrange to have remedial classes that cover the following problem areas and clear these important doubts:

  • How to explain to my family that my property and life, which can be damaged by raging family of patients, is worth something only for the duration of a pandemic.
  • How to refrain from expressing my anger when leading newspapers credit IIT’s in their headline for leading the war on coved and mentioning assault on doctors in a small report hidden inside.
  • How to handle landlords who do not want me to return home after duty and call me dirty.
  • How to handle being harassed by general public for being potentially infective after spending the day caring for patients.
  • Where to go when landlords forcibly evict us for being doctors attending to sick and infective patients.
  • How to react when high courts rule that lawyers salaries cannot be cut for donation to relief funds but doctors salaries are deducted, and their demands of risk allowance are ignored.
  • Why it is mandatory for an accused to get a COVID test before appearing in court, but not for a patient before an elective procedure in a hospital.
  • How to reply to arrogant journalists who break into ICU’s with critical patients breaching all hygiene protocols and shove mikes in your face
  • How to reply to a journalist whose questions are muffled through the complete PPE he is wearing while I wear my routine surgical mask
  • How to explain how we may have got infected with the very disease we have been designated to treat to those who designated us in the first place.
  • Training for additional activities like driving ambulance, especially with a raging mob chasing us, performing last rites of colleagues in face of angry mobs.
  • Learning to kiss our children through glass doors, not allowing them to hug us when we enter home.
  • How to care for the overloaded wards allotted to us worrying about possibility of getting infected, or worse, infecting our families.
  • Skill sets for sleeping in the car or garage while on COVID duty
  • How to remain straight-faced when policy makers suggest that non doctors can be trained to give anesthesia or perform radiology procedure.
  • How to respond when leading corporate hospitals ask doctors to purchase their own N95 masks.
  • How to explain that I perform essential life saving services to the policeman who won’t let me return to my home, in the state where I have chosen to raise my family, and pay my taxes.
  • What to say when our families ask us how ours jobs changed from life saving to life threatening, in more ways than one.

Essential because these things are going to increase

The classes may be conducted in online or offline mode, at any convenient time.

We agree to take a sabbatical from our usual duties to pursue this training and we will bear the cost incurred on our training.

We also request for simple modules to be created on all of the above as it is expected that they will needed to be implemented on an urgent basis, usually when we are alone. Also, kindly leave sufficient scope for discussion in the course schedule, as new areas and controversies may emerge.

We trust the medical education system and fraternity will favorably respond to this request and facilitate our learning. After all, one of the first lessons in medicine we learnt, that we are always students.

Sincerely yours
A student first and a doctor second

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Shalini grows through her roles as mother and a doctor. She believes that both the

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