By Shayne Poulin, MD
Burnout, a plague within the medical system long before the pandemic arrived. Most of us have faced some version of burnout or moral injury within the last year. I found my usual coping techniques were no match for the avalanche of stressors associated with 2020. In response, I pick up a copy of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, by doctors Amelia and Emily Nagoski. Technically, I downloaded the audiobook and listened while driving to work (which I highly recommend). My whole perspective on stress and it’s management shifted in the first chapter. Evidence based discussion regarding biochemistry is used to describe the physiologic impact of stress on the body. Then, comes the very practical information about how to reduce stress and manage it long term. As stated empathetically throughout the book, this is not adding self-care to your already expansive To Do list. The book provides validation about the stress filled culture we exist in and then goes beyond acknowledgement and teaches how to manage it. I found myself saying “Yes, exactly” to no one and nodding in agreement as I experienced another light bulb moment. As I have incorporated these skills and information into the exam room, I have seen patient after patient experience the same moment of validation and empowerment as they discover tools to help address stress in their lives. As family doctors with brief patient interactions we know how important it is to make a 5-minute conversation meaningful. This book provides innumerable skills that can be shared quickly to make a significant impact on you and your patient’s lives.
By Tom Bent, MD
Dr Katherine S. Xue’s July 21 article in the New Yorker explores the probable future of COVID-19 and how our bodies and our society will need to adapt. The subtitle of the article is “COVID-19 is likely to become and endemic disease. How will our immune systems resist it?”
The article reviews the history of epidemic research and the understanding of immunity. She gives an excellent summary of the mechanisms of immunity and the reasons for COVID-19 re-infections. The subject of re-infections is especially relevant, as Dr Xue brings clarity to this misunderstood topic. “Today, reports of reinfections and vaccine breakthroughs tend to come as a scary surprise. But they will increasingly feel normal as the acute phase of the pandemic draws to a close. Despite the spectacular success of the vaccines, the odds are stacked against eradication or even herd immunity; the virus is too widespread and transmissible for that. Still, our relationship with the virus is going to change fundamentally. A year and a half ago, we were islanders blindsided by a new invader. As our collective immune resistance grows, however, COVID will shift from a pandemic to an endemic threat.”
I recommend the article to both colleagues and patients as an excellent insight into the present and the future of COVID.