Doctors Want Masks, Not Wellness Modules

Healthcare workers are distracted by worry about shortages of PPE.

Artist Sara Paglia was inspired to create an action painting of doctors facing COVID-19. Used with permission,

Doctors are getting sick.

Dr. Nicole Battaglioli, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Emory, is an ER attending at Grady Hospital in downtown Atlanta. During a shift, she was pulled to see the “COVID screeners,” patients who had been flagged by the triage nurse for possible infection with COVID-19.

Performance is impaired when people feel unsafe.

Feeling under threat is a problem because it distracts, creating an attentional bias toward information about the threat. Normally, that’s a tool doctors use, directing attention toward the threat to the patient. But what happens when the doctor feels their own life is threatened? As their attention is pulled toward the threat, it takes tremendous energy to redirect it to problem-solving for the patient.

The desire for safety is nothing new.

During the medieval period in the West, plague doctors had their own version of personal protective equipment. Their bird shaped masks and full coverage gowns are now popular at costume parties.

Plague doctor in a full gown wearing a had and mask with a long beak.
Plague doctor in a full gown wearing a had and mask with a long beak.
The Plague Doctor in full protective equipment. Wikipedia Commons/Public Domain.

Why don’t healthcare workers have equipment?

Iraq war veteran and former marine gunner Matthew Groth, now an ICU nurse, calls the fact that we don’t have enough PPE a “head scratcher.” He feels let down by the national leadership. “I don’t understand how nobody could have semi-prepared for this. You know, you guys could have seen this coming and up some production. You could see the problems China was having.”

How can we take effective action under pressure? Forbes Contributor | TEDx Speaker | Pediatrician | PsychToday |

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