coronavirus medical gear

COVID-19 Has Made My Career Of Choice Riskier - Here's Why

As an undergraduate with the desire to pursue a career in medicine, the pandemic not only broke my heart and made me feel scared, but it also opened my eyes to the reality of medicine during times of turmoil. For me, becoming a physician is not because of the pay grade, the ego boost or the desire to please my Middle Eastern parents. Instead, it is for me. For as long as I can remember, the joyous pleasure of helping someone and their loved ones and the ability to make an impact in even one person’s life has been a natural high that cannot be compared to anything else. But then there is COVID-19: the pandemic in which every healthcare professional was not exactly trained for nor expecting. The pandemic made me realize that my future job is not only about helping others, but putting myself at risk sometimes for the better of the public. 

Women wearing a mask for health purpose Pixabay

Being a healthcare worker in the midst of a pandemic is risky. You can catch COVID and spread it to the people you live with, you may be surrounded by continuous death and grief and at times, it may feel never ending. The question then lies: are you ready to risk that? Are you mentally prepared to suck it up and go through emotional trauma for the sake of the general public? If the answer is no, then to be quite frank, medicine is not for you. Personally, it is the type of challenge I am ready for, and it is the type of challenge in which I am ready to face the unexpected and the sorrow that may come along with it. The reality is that grief is simply one side of the equation. Saving a life and being present in a specific moment where just one person may need your help is enough to make a difference. Being a physician does not only mean risking your life during hard times (like the pandemic), but it also means being willing to put all your effort and knowledge into every day- even if it just to see one family member be grateful to you for saving their loved ones life. 

two surgeons performing an operation Photo by JAFAR AHMED from Unsplash

I always knew a very challenging aspect of being a healthcare worker was dealing with death. It is the unfortunate fact that we cannot save everyone, and for some reason, I had the idea in my mind that when I was older, trained and more experienced, dealing with patient grief was not going to affect me as much as I expected. I am the type of person who is pretty good at compartmentalizing feelings. But after continuously watching the news about COVID-19 and reading articles about how many deaths happened at the end of each day or week, it has all kind of gotten to me. My heart not only feels heavy for the families who have lost loved ones, but also for the physicians, nurses, paramedics, etc. who have been dealing with the constant frustration of losing patients because of the virus that seems never ending. You cannot simply brush away death, and those patient losses become a part of you. I soon realized my role as a future physician includes feeling the pain of patients’ and their families but still maintaining the fine line between empathy and professionalism. 

A patient holding hands with their doctor Photo by National Cancer Institute from Unsplash

Finally, what may even be more frustrating than watching innocent people die due to an unknown virus is knowing how broken the healthcare system is. The lack of resources, beds, equipment and staff became more apparent than ever before due to the pandemic. The system is flawed, and healthcare workers are not treated with any room for error or given the proper tools they need and deserve in order to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Hopefully, in the future, I aim to move past the dialogue about the flawed healthcare system and actually implement change. It is the type of change that is going to be everlasting and influential, and it is just one of the million reasons why COVID-19 has made me more sure than ever that healthcare is the path for me.