Dr. Alyssa Ann Ka‘ihilani Chun-Honda is from Kāne‘ohe. She is a pediatrician-in-residency and a recipient of the Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship. Dr. Chun-Honda reflects on her experiences during these challenging times.
During these times of COVID, life has surely changed. You can’t hang out with your family or friends. You can’t go hiking on some of the popular trails or enjoy time on the beach. Most of your time is spent in front of a screen on either Zoom or Facetime. Masks have become an everyday attire. Lines form outside of grocery stores with tape markers making sure customers stand six feet apart. For those of us in healthcare, these changes are also part of our everyday routine, but with a little twist depending on whether or not we are in the hospital.
My everyday routine was a little different, depending on the hospital I was working at. My temperature was scanned every day prior to entering the hospital or I was asked a series of questions such as Do you have a cough, shortness of breath, or fever? After passing the screening process, I was given a sticker to wear on my badge. I had to wear a surgical mask at all times regardless if I was in or out of a patient’s room.
Once I was through the screening process, I would pass by the Emergency Department and some of our adult medicine colleagues and feel a sense of gratitude for them. They are dealing with a different severity of COVID as adults are much more affected. Luckily for Pediatrics, kids are not as impacted by COVID, although they still can get sick. Even though we were not seeing the same influx of admissions, PUIs or COVID positive patients, Pediatrics was still affected. Only 1 parent was allowed to be with the patient once admitted. If the patient was COVID positive, visitation was basically restricted. We had to question everything. I mean kids get sick all the time. They have runny noses or sniffles here and there. We would question things like: Do they have COVID or just your standard cold? Are these allergies? Most people in the community are asymptomatic, so does the patient we just admitted for a bad skin infection have COVID even though symptom free? Is the parent with them an asymptomatic carrier? Do we test when there’s a shortage? We were constantly questioning and learning about this novel virus.
Sometimes I felt a sense of guilt knowing how much our adult medicine colleagues or New York colleagues were facing. Or how much our interdisciplinary colleagues were affected. Registered nurses were putting themselves at higher risk as they have much more interaction with the patients. Same goes for respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and other first responders. Often more interactions than the doctor. So when people tell me thank you for what I do, I tell them thank you, but there are others that deserve more thanks.
Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I didn’t think about the risks associated with going to the hospital every day. There’s no such thing as true social distancing in the hospital. Yes, we wear masks all the time, don’t shake hands, always wash our hands or use sanitizer and try to keep our distance as able. We limit the number of providers entering the room. Try virtual rounding as able. However, we still meet new patients and parents every day. We spend time with other healthcare workers which might not be the same individual day in and day out. Different residents come in as the rotation and shift changes. Different RNs, RTs, OTs, PTs come in depending on the shift. There are many interactions. The risk is high, so when I went home, my clothes went straight into the washer, and I showered immediately. No interaction at home until these things were done. I did not want to risk any transmission to my husband.
So I guess the thanks I get from others do get some sort of validation. Does the increased risk make me regret my profession? Not at all. If anything, I feel a stronger calling to serve. This is what I signed up for. Well, not a pandemic but to help others when it comes to health. With everything that has happened with COVID, my identity to serve has not changed. Only the process on how I do it.
So with these times of COVID, life sure has changed. It may not go back to what it was before or may take a while before it ever does. But all we can do is continue to move forward. One healthcare worker at a time. One parent at a time. One family member or friend at a time. One day at a time.
~ Alyssa Chun-Honda, MD