During the presidential inauguration week symposia, a panel discussion was devoted to âAn ethical approach to moral distress during COVID-19â on Thursday, September 30, at the Guthart Cultural Center theater.
Renee McLeod-Sordjan, Professor of Nursing and Chair of the Graduate Program in Nursing, Mary Lemp, Assistant Professor of Nursing and Walter L. Markowitz, Assistant Professor of Health Professions, hosted the event for the students and teachers.
At the start of the panel, speakers shared their personal experiences as they experienced the COVID-19 pandemic as healthcare workers.
âI was involved in an intensive care unit that was converted to a COVID unit,â said Dr. Jerome Weiner, intensive care physician and clinical assistant professor. âWe had 20 patients and all of them were sedated, paralyzed and had no family by their side. It was really scary and hellish.
As healthcare workers look back on the pandemic, we shouldn’t forget the fear of scarce resources.
âWhen I reviewed for today, I realized I had nothing to write about because it was exactly the reality,â said nurse practitioner Elyse Isopo. “I could look at a patient and say he can’t get off the ventilator, but telling the patient he wouldn’t have a ventilator was a whole different experience.”
Not only did resources continue to dwindle, but it was also difficult to get help throughout the hospital.
âI spent a few nights covering up in the hospital,â Weiner said. “You could hear the loudspeaker ringing every 20 minutes to call for help, which had never happened in a facility before, as all the patients continued to deteriorate.”
Alec Sheridan, a first year physical education student, attended the panel and was touched by their experiences.
âThe thought of making that decision about who would get life-saving care rather than another person must have had a huge mental impact on her,â Sheridan said.
Students found it helpful to hear the experiences of healthcare workers to better prepare for the future.
âI think it’s important to know how we have handled the pandemic as a whole, because there is a possibility that we will face it in the future,â said Shalin Madan, BS / MD freshman biology student. âIf we look at these situations that occurred during the pandemic, we can learn how to better prepare for the future. “
Lemp spoke from an ethics committee perspective rather than a frontline perspective.
“[The pandemic] is something that I have learned a lot from personally. I have learned a lot about the resilience of our students, colleagues and patients and their families, âshe said. âWith the support and collegiality, and knowing that you are valued, respected and loved, I think people can overcome just about anything. “
President Susan Poser asked the panel a question about how healthcare workers will practice general care once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
âI think we’ve learned that humanity and resilience don’t live in the machines to keep humans alive, but in the people who help keep them here,â McLeod-Sordjan said. “I hope we’ve learned that people are more important than technology.”
Lemp also spoke about the positive results COVID-19 has brought to the healthcare community.
âI think one thing that has revolutionized us is the advent of telehealth,â she said. “They could come in from their home and be able to give good advice and that would really make a difference in the turn for this particular patient.”
The students were inspired by the ethics committee’s positive discussion of the pandemic, despite the challenges the world faced.
âThey were able to find the silver lining in a stressful situation,â said Varun Sridhar, a freshman BS / MD biology student. “It showed me that there are different ways of looking positively at this crisis.”