Sharing our experiences in health care, especially during intense, emotional, or stressful times increases our connectedness and well-being. Hearing stories from others helps us know we are not alone, and strengthens our community. The authenticity, compassion, creativity, and bravery of our colleagues helps us access our own emotions, and helps us carry on.

If you are interested in sharing a short reflection (55 words or fewer) about how the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted you to understand, appreciate, or process something about the impact, response, or practice of medicine and care at this moment, please click here. We invite ALL members of the healthcare team to contribute across all professions and roles. The stories are posted below with permission.

 


 

Time(ing)

My partner, my friends

Mostly Artists which means mostly Service Workers
Laid off, they lack funds but are abundant in time
Time for virtual happy hours and pop-up performances, laughter and creating new rituals
I am Essential, working long and proud
I have my job
What I lack is my community-of-heart
I’m lucky, but lonely

By PG, Support Staff

 

Air Supply

“All out of love” sounds from the hilltop.
My son, plucking dandelions, poking freshly drowned earthworms, looks up from the grass. A figure appears: masked, hooded, with reflective goggles and a speaker in hand. It waves.
“Monster!” my son points and runs away.
He has learned to fear our neighbors. Keeps everybody safe, for now.

By Kalyan Banda, Attending Physician

 

I can hear you

In transcription it is not a direct communication but we have always appreciated hearing “have a nice day” or “thanks for your help” because it means you know a person is there listening to you. I become real for you.

Reading these stories, it helps me to hear you better, as I recognize names and appreciate the feelings shared and work that you do that doesn’t always show up in the dictation. Thank you for becoming real to me.

By Lori Wilkinson, Transcription

 

Ghosted

We’re days away from the “surge,” and the hospital is a ghost town – existing wards closed, and extra ones planned. We have bed capacity for COVID-19. But what about our other patients? Are you no longer getting chest pain? No longer needing detox? No longer sick at dialysis? Where are you? Are you okay?

By Allyson Goldberg, Attending Physician

 

Waiting

My daughter hangs upside-down in a tree.
I wait for the fall.
I wait, like last week in hospital,
eerily devoid of visitors,
for Covid patients.
Will they overwhelm,
or will we “flatten the curve”?
I wait while balancing roles —
parent, doctor, teacher —
and hope we have saved lives.
She lands feet first.

By Kimberly Collins, Attending Physician

 

New Morning Rituals at a Level I Trauma Center

The MASH tent has been erected outside our front door.

Our daily Discharge Team prayer circle
Where, for the last year, and
Up until the last month-

We held hands and gave gratitude for our lives, asked for guidance in our actions, prayed for kindness despite our weariness, and the wisdom to remove barriers to discharge,

This prayer circle has mutated along with the virus.
“Essential Staff” cannot hug,
Or hold hands
During prayer
But we can still gather.

By Pamela Brucks, MN, RN

 

Running Short

It sat partially covered & unassuming. My resident and I both noticed it right away. The recycled bottle of hand sanitizer that our pharmacy had remixed and relabeled with prescription information. The fear that we had run out. The proof that we could make our own.

By Jennifer M Erickson, DO

 

Shout-out

I would like to thank nurses, who spend more time bedside than I do. For your wellbeing, too, I obsess over my orders. You collect our precious (cough-inducing) tests, and you’ve called more bereaved families. Despite your fear, your compassionate professionalism – today, like any day – inspires me and makes me grateful. Thank you.

By Anonymous, Attending Physician

 

Moving Community Support

I worked a voluntary shift screening patients at the ED entrance. The experience was extremely rewarding. I was moved, seeing people come to Harborview to support the medical community by bringing N95 masks, gloves, and cans of disinfectant, knowing that those supplies will be used to treat critically ill Covid-19 patients. Community members, THANK YOU!

By Richard Chartier, Front Desk PSS

 

Fear Osmosis

Flutters of urgency
motion without permission.
New found modes of communication
surrounding us.
Words buzzing ear to ear
carrying weight of emotion,
permeating bodies like the air we breathe.

Listen dear one,
there is light.
It never left.
You have the power of discernment
Don’t give in to the theft
of fear
my dear.

By Kristine Manuel, Clinical Lab Scientist

 

Like a Movie

It’s everywhere
COVID-19 came in like a wrecking ball
Taking over our thoughts & actions.
I wish I could do more…But there is still hope in me knowing I work in a place full of innovation and compassion.
Sometimes this all feels like a sci-fiction movie, I just hope that, that one miracle comes in to play sooner than later.

By Anonymous, Medical Assistant

 

Untitled

Spring’s arrived– popping purple crocuses, bright yellow daffodils, and puffy pink cherry blossoms, a welcome transition from dreary winter’s rain. Although overshadowed by swirling uncertainty of the global pandemic, these spring flowers remind me that life will blossom again in the wake of this destructive virus. A sign of hope.

By Anonymous, Attending Physician

 

Remember

Let’s be patient…
Practicing medicine amidst social distress.
Supervising trainees.
Advocating.
Let’s extend grace…
We will be post-call (I was).
We will be managing clinical challenges (like I am).
We will make mistakes during our virtual lectures (like I did).
We will be stressed, tired, and sleep deprived (like I am).
Please, let’s be kind…

By Roberto Montenegro, Attending Physician

 

Zombie Virus

“I’m most afraid the coronavirus will become a zombie virus.” My son. I’m realizing I’ve failed to teach him much of what I’ve learned in school. Right now I’m non-essential. I don’t get to do medicine. But I can use my time to do what I do with patients – teach and comfort. Just at home.

By Anonymous, Medical Student

 

Behind the Mask

The nurse warns me that the 4 year old isn’t wearing a mask
The child says it’s hot and she can’t breathe
It’s too big anyway
Her parents are wearing masks and grave expressions
Breathlessly waiting for the test result
But good news?! She has Influenza, not Coronavirus
In these strange times, they’re relieved
They can’t see me smile, it’s hard for me to breathe in this mask too
Does my breath always smell like this?
I think we all need to breathe…better

By John Schreuder, Attending Physician

 

Hope

Anxiety, stress, fear builds up as my work week starts
Still we do our best to take care of our patients with compassion and empathy
Knowing we got each other’s back is comforting enough
Breathe of relief at the end of the shift
Gorgeous Seattle sunset and fresh air awaits outside
Hope floats…

By Zinnia, Nurse

 

Bodies

So thankful for yoga right now. I practice yoga as a way to come back into my body. To experience my body again as something other than a carrier of disease, something harmful to those around me. My body is so tired with the weight of this work. Yoga restores my buoyancy for a while.

By Loren, Social Worker

 

Home from Work

Teenage son says, “Hi, Mom. Wait. You’re in your bathrobe?!”
“We’re changing out of scrubs in the garage because of COVID-19. Um, you’re in a bathrobe, too?”
“Can’t go anywhere….. Why get dressed?”
We hear a car. Then, the door from garage to kitchen opens.
“Dad! You’re naked!?”
“Close your eyes, everyone! Heading to shower!”

By Sarah Merrifield, Attending Physician

 

Masks

“Don’t touch me” he yells, “ma’am don’t touch me”. I need to fix it. The thing that’s bothering him. I’m gowned, he can’t see my intent. Only my eyes. Do they convey I’m smiling? “Hey I’m here. I’m in this suit and I’m listening. I’m going to help you”. He’s scared. “I’m sorry” he said. His eyes shift to me in the midst of his painful storm. There we go, I think-contact. “What’s your name again?” He asks. I wonder if he can see the tear in my eye. The tear in holding back.

By Anonymous, Nurse

 

Untitled

10 years today at UWMC. Doors are all closed, visitors are gone, meetings are cancelled, some of my favorite colleagues are suddenly retiring early, everyone is as germaphobe as me, I am so tired after shifts (double the normal), it is scary to go in, the air in Seattle has been still and it is eerie and quiet like the calm before the storm at the hospital. But, I have not looked for other gigs since I started and I am proud to be where there is compassion, dedication and expertise! I am enjoying one day off, then back at it!

By Anonymous, Nurse

 

The Worst and the Best

COVID-19 has brought out the worst and the best in us.
Some have sold stocks on dire news that only they know. They still smile into the cameras.
Then, there are neighbors who bring over hot dinners in a basket for those coming home from the hospital exhausted.
Fresh baked cookies, too.
I’m grateful.

By Josh Benditt, Attending Physician

 

Outside Over There

“The plan is for me to visit on her birthday. I am planning on a cake, some gifts. She has cancer. My parents are elderly but are with her. They have more time, but are at risk. Now, I have to make a decision.”

Background: As many of us grapple with this situation at UW and deal with the impact to our daily lives in Seattle, we are also thinking about family, often times across the globe, who are affected as well.

By Anonymous, Support Staff

 

Is this not also “health”?

I have been distraught by news stories of individuals who are obligated to continue working despite manifesting symptoms of illness because they would otherwise not receive adequate pay.

As health care providers, is it not our responsibility to advocate for these individuals and stand up to the system that has condoned this behavior from employers?

The only thing I feel like I can do is vote. And deep down, I’m not sure that’s as powerful an action as I grew up thinking it would be.

By Anonymous, Resident/Fellow

 

A Minor Inconvenience

If only a mountain of Ricola would help.
Many neighbors are old, some oxygen dependent.
I don’t want any of them to get CoVid and be stuck in the hospital.
Because my brother or me were playing too close to the fence.
Can’t put up with this forever.
Help!

By Anonymous, Son of a nurse

 

In Light of Stillness

Fifty-five Words About Living Through Stillness:
Travel the empty roads, lightly filled transit.
The wary at home, wanderers in the streets.
Fog drifts in city streets, blossomed.
What other mists remain, unseen, deadly?
Be alert, of sober mind: death roars, soundless.
Live in the stillness, at heart of day.
Let night not take us away.

By Stephen Edwin Lundgren, Support Staff

 

Barriers

Caring for a COVID+ patient, this PPE makes me feel miles of distance between us.
How alone must they feel in this sterile room?
Do handshakes and hands on shoulders feel as comforting with gloves on?
If only they could see me smile underneath my mask.
I hope my eyes show how much I care.

by Daniel Cabrera, Attending Physician

 

Inhaling

Today in Seattle looks like every other day. So why the hush? Showered, as I always do – drank two mugs of coffee. So what’s the weight? I don’t know yet exactly what we’re waiting for. I’m inhaling, but maybe not deep enough. Is anyone else feeling this? Also – can whoever that is, please mute?

by Jennifer Best, Attending Physician

 

The student Clinic-Should we stay or should we go?

At what point is the benefit provided less than the risk you can confer to those that you are trying to help? As chair of one of the largest student run clinics, do we stay running and continue to provide help to the elderly and underserved or stop in fear of contracting and transmitting disease?

by Rohan Sehgal, Medical Student

 

It’s a very small world

Here- sick patients for hours. Flu like symptoms.
Systems are already struggling. My alarms are firing.
Flu? Something else? One infected, none, or all?
We wouldn’t know.
Isolation?
It’s just hours away-by air.
I’m told “we’re fine”
Three weeks later: “Where is Kirkland on that map?”
I am screaming into the wind

by Anonymous, Diagnostic Imaging

 

I’m Sorry

I’m worried. Your mom is very sick.
I’m sorry. You can’t go in the room.
I’m worried. There’s nothing we can do.
I’m sorry. She has passed away.
I’m worried. This is only the first of many.
I’m sorry. You can’t go in the room.
I’m worried. We don’t know what to do.
I’m sorry.

by Anonymous, Resident/Fellow

 

Spring Backwards

Soap suds. Wash away the problems of the first patient before tackling the next. Wash in. Wash out. Bow, namaste: in. Elbow bumping out. How do social distancing and healing touch work together?
The brain tumor is shrinking and he is getting better! So happy.
My patient leaps forward to hug me and I recoil.

By Lynne Taylor, Attending Physician

 

Father and Son

My father lives in Colombia. He is 72 and just recovering from a lung infection. I’m away from home and unable to take care of him. I talk to him everyday and ask him to be cautious. He just replies that I’m the one that needs to be careful. That I should take care of my wife and my child.

By Daniel F Gallego, Resident/Fellow

 

The Daily Huddle

Texts, phone calls, 1am emails, pressure, anxiety, calm-assuredness, fear, stress, concern, unknown. Every day I watch our deans come together and rise higher and pull each other up to solve crisis after crisis and problem after problem. I am so proud. So very proud of our clinicians and leaders.

By Kellie Engle, Support Staff

 

Inglorious Admin-ers

Nurses, MAs, EVS, administrators
hustle through the hall
Purposeful energy radiates
they whiz past my open door
A bit of chaos
uncertainty, unknown
but tasks
– Don! Doff! Clean! Care! –
helpful plans
obviously useful

at my desk, I sit.

Guess it’s time to keep reserving rooms, updating personnel files, ordering supplies, requesting funds, notifying volunteers, typing…

By Anonymous, Support Staff

Exposed

At change of shift 3 different classmates on 3 different days tell me they were exposed. Exposed to potential COVID-19 patients without wearing PPE. (This was before we got better at screening.)

I get an everyday cold. I was told everyday of work we miss we must make up. I call out, and come back 3 days later, afraid if I stay out longer I won’t be able to graduate. Afraid I didn’t stay home long enough.

Later I learn we can get tested. I fill out the survey. They call me into the underground site and stick swabs up my nose. The result: “indeterminate… most likely positive.” I stand frozen, afraid, exposed.

By Anonymous, Medical Student

 

Hunker Down

Hunks and monks please hunker down
Stay in place and out of town
Order take out, stream a show
Coughs and fevers, nasal flow
Hug yourself but not your granny
Clean your house, nooks & crannies
Despite no faith in upper brass
Worry not… this too will pass

By Connor Mamikunian, Medical Student

 

I will remember

Feeling like a soldier in scrubs
“How are you?” “Well, my medical school roommate is in an ICU in New York . . .”
The tent outside the ER
The patient who did not want to leave the hospital
The young physician whose mother mailed her a chocolate cake
Wondering who supports the chaplain

By Susan Merel, Attending Physician

 

Impossible Choices

Stay behind, Martin Luther is said to have urged. Your duty is to serve the sick. His pregnant wife by his side, they say. His pregnant wife? This calling of mine now suddenly risks my partner’s existence. Physical distance to protect a physical life? And what then of the toddler, asking after his mama?

By Katie Kenningham, Resident/Fellow

 

alone

They stand at the screening station.
They do not resist or complain. They do not speak English.
Tomorrow he will have an operation he hopes to survive and may save his life.
His lips, eyes tighten as she embraces his back with tears welling.
They have never been apart before.
He walks down the hallway alone.

By Adele Grant, Nurse

 

Essential

Can we work from home?
Can we work from home?
We are essential. We show up for work.
What is this irritation in my voice?
My boss: We are frontline staff.
My team: There are other ways to show up.
Everyone is angry. Everyone is scared.
And I am caught in the middle.

By Anonymous, Manager

 

Knowing

Medical School teaches “I don’t know.”
Cranial Nerves
Cytokine alphabet soup
Cerebral Blood Supply
Second-line treatments
Which antibiotic?
What’s the differential?
What’s the risk?
What should we do next?
Practicing “I don’t know” makes us better
Learnersdoctorspeople.

But
This morning
Watching sunlight on the cedar
From inside
The not knowing feels different.

By Melanie Langa, Medical Student

 

Untitled

The weight of what we’re doing feels heavier at home. The fear is more acute when surrounded by those we love. I don’t want to die but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do my job, so each day I wake up and head back to the ICU carrying the weight of a pandemic with me.

By Anonymous, Resident/Fellow

 

Hand Sanitizer

Ok, it’s gone again. The hand sanitizer. They ripped it off from the clinic exam room.
Outrageous! How could they? I am so mad!
Wait. Hand sanitizer. A symbol of protection. Hope in times of fear. Control in an out of control world.
It’s OK. I get it.
We can wash our hands.

By Elizabeth Gamboa, Nurse

 

Isolating

I hope that at the end of this people stop taking for granted being around their loved ones. Everyone. Patients, family, and staff. Now that we are physically isolating ourselves, when will people stop emotionally isolating themselves within their phones, technology, and social media? Look up and enjoy the people around you. You really don’t know when you might not see them again.

By JM, Nurse

 

Priorities

Control the spread, protect the frontlines. Treat those already ill, develop a vaccine to prevent the disease. Stimulate the economy, value the lives of those who require resources. There are many coexisting priorities. Who decides what matters? Is it one leader, a domino effect? Could it be our collective voice?

By Anonymous, Medical Student

 

We hear you, do you hear us?

Medical Assistants.
Financial insecurity, working 2 or 3 jobs to get by.
Cost of living, Seattle: 150%-180% of pre-tax salary.
Wanting our lives on the line and untold flexibility.
Providers complain about the financial impact on them.
Read the room.
This is our norm.
Welcome to our world.
We really are in this together.

By Anonymous, Medical Assistant

 

Silver Linings and Worry

My commute is fantastic!
Some of us will have the opportunity to consider what is essential to survival and what is not. Can we consider our priorities as a species? Can we re-think how we treating each other, animals and our environment? Can we take a step in a better direction?
I am very worried about everyone, especially those at most risk.

By Anonymous, Technician

 

Rogue

Alone. Despite being surrounded. So alone
Robotic
a blank peace of sterile white paper
Am I numb? Submerged in healthcare
Every day for the past 13 years
Am I not phased by this viral outbreak?
Do I give myself more credit?
for rolling with the punches?
One day at a time? ok. ONE DAY AT A TIME
Month of March in the year 2020, you have changed my spirit
I no longer find time for self care
in the morning
before work…I no longer find time
to meditate myself back to the beautiful basics of life
Love, please find your way back in
Humanity is not to be placed on hold

By Cassidy Laffan, Medical Student

 

Spinning Wheels

The director doesn’t understand. He is pulled in too many directions. He asks for help, then pushes those willing to help back, with force. He works longer hours and stops telling his team what he’s working on. People ask questions, he tells them to stop bothering him. We are ready to help. Communicate. Delegate. Innovate.

By Anonymous, Support Staff

 

Not Enough

My words.
They are not enough.
There is not enough time and space.
I feel your energy, your fear.

I serve with patience and calm. I fill the waiting room with love, silently.
I sleep and my dreams are full of tumult.

My fear is quiet, small, and dense.

By Laurie Johnson, Support Staff

 

Distance

They say social distancing but that is an error.
Physical distancing is what it must be.
Socially I am not distant at all!
Those ‘Six Feet’ that I observe are filled with my care for their safety; and my own.
I can still Speak, Hear, See…just because I must not touch I am not helpless.

By Anonymous, Support Staff

 

In retrospect

Pending, 1 hour. In retrospect, maybe I was a little congested a few days ago? I’ve been tired, but that’s normal, right?
Pending, 24 hours. Running through the patients I’ve seen recently, chronic illnesses, immunosuppression, older age.
Pending, 46 hours. Repeatedly visualizing the inevitable disclosure process. “Sorry, you had a bad doctor.”
48 hours. Negative.

By Kate Butler, Resident/Fellow

 

Enough

I hate that you’re alone. I hate that you can’t see your child. I’m sorry you can’t leave the room. I’m sorry we make you feel dirty because we wear PPE. I know you’re scared. I hope we’re enough to keep your spirits up for transplant. Your heart is coming soon, it has to be.

By Brooke, Nurse

 

Worry

I worry entering the room, THIS room
That my mask, THIS just mask isn’t enough
That I will take this home to my kids
That they will infect others, people will get sick.
I will not die for my job.
I will not die for my patients.
We shouldn’t have to choose.
We should be protected.

By Anonymous, Nurse

 

Social Visit

I enter through the door that says
NO VISITORS
A maze of fluorescent light and white noise
Usher me to a new yet familiar world
Purell markers lead me to your room
I knock
On your window
You turn, eyes wide, its deep recesses hold the weight of humanity
We exchange primordial gestures of hope

By Daniel Lam, Attending Physician

 

Untitled

Eyes burning, the alcohol hasn’t dried from the goggles after wiping them down between patients. Skin cracked, dry from chlorhexidine hand washing. Heart downcast, worried about family and coworkers.

Soul knowing we are pressed but not crushed, for there is something greater. Our hope is in the eternal, in the unseen, and we press on.

By Anonymous, Resident/Fellow

 

Friend

I received an email from a resident in our system. He was anxious and scared about the new virus that was disrupting so much of the routine of medicine, if you can call it that. He was concerned about his family – and mine. He was honest. He wanted my advice. He signed the letter, “Friend.”

By Anonymous, Attending Pysician

 

Questioning

I’m tired. Worn down. Sleep deprived. Overworked. At baseline.

Now. I’m scared. Anxious. Lonely. Without toilet paper and groceries. Because I’m always at work. I’m on the front lines. I am the front line.

It has only just started, but I feel finished.

I would rather quarantine.

Does that mean I am a bad doctor?

By Anonymous, Resident/Fellow

 

Seattle Haiku

Corona virus
We’re ghosting in Seattle
Northwest will survive

Robert Cormier

By Doug Schaad, Research Faculty

 

Away from Family

I know that social distancing is the only way for me to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, my grandma is alone in her hospital bed, indefinitely. After a stroke, she’s been bedridden with severe dementia, weakness, and no speech capabilities.

I miss her. She might miss us even more.

by Kevin, Medical Student

 

Building a plane while flying it

Colleagues tried to close the airport. We still ended up at the gate, begging passengers not to board. When they didn’t listen, duty brought us on with our loved ones, colleagues, patients. Buckling seatbelts. Building as fast we can, knowing the plane will crash. Still with hope: the better we build, the more will survive.

by Jessica Bender, Attending Physician

 

2,000 miles apart

My parents both live alone, 2,000 miles away. They are both in the highest risk category for COVID-19, and they understand the full horror of an ARDS death. If there is a statewide quarantine, we’ll be trapped apart, alone, waiting, knowing their fate if infected, treasuring every phone call as if it’s the last.

by Anonymous, Medical Student

 

Love in the time of coronavirus

My patients know that I always offer them a hug or touch. Adjusting to coronavirus has been a challenge – but love finds a way!

Recipe for a hug, covid style:
Right foot bump
Left foot bump
Right elbow bump
Left elbow bump
Smile, laugh
Look into each other’s eyes
We will get through this

by Jane Hitti, Attending Physician

 

Staying close while we are physically distant

Rather than talking about “social” distancing, we should be talking about “physical” distancing. Ironically, at a time when it is important to physically pull apart, what will get us through this pandemic is socially and professionally pulling together and supporting each other as a community. Luckily we have many ways to do that while maintaining physical distance.

by Anonymous, Attending Physician

 

“Non-Essential”

We were a duo, my patient and I. I took care of his failing lungs, and we laughed together at his bad jokes even if it made him short of breath. I tried to live up to his trust. Then one day, I was told I couldn’t see him anymore because I was “non-essential.”

By Anonymous, Medical Student

 

Childcare

If daycare is closing, how can I still graduate on time? Medical students don’t get sick leave.

It doesn’t seem right to call up my mom, and put her in danger, so that I can shadow a neurologist in clinic.

By Anonymous, Medical Student

 

The last rest

Readying for bed he whispers “the hospital has 2 cases, will hit the news tomorrow”.
I sleep like it is the last rest for months.
Abandoning a lazy Saturday, waking early, savoring the quiet.
I tell our kids, “Things are different now”.
After brunch, checking his phone, colleagues quarantined, help is needed and he goes.

By Andrea Kalus, Attending Physician

 

Ice Cream

The problem was a pint of ice cream.
A stuck lid gave way to a fall, a bone broken.
Whisked off to surgery,
Fixed! Perfect recovery, joined for rehab stay by life-long love.
A sneaky sniffle, a cough gives way to breathlessness.
Never saw this coming, no one could imagine
Ice cream was this dangerous.

By Anonymous, Attending Physician

 

Did I sign up for this?

I signed up for this, right? I signed up to help people. Why, then do I feel so scared when I show up to work these days? Why do I feel unprotected? I’m nervous, and I’m not really sure if I did sign up for this. A Pandemic. But I will still show up.

By Colleen Detweiler, RN