Counting the Gains and Losses Of Practicing in the COVID-19 Era

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Children's Doctor

Sarah M. Gawthrop, MD, is a general pediatrician at the CHOP Campus primary care practice and is the medical editor of Children’s Doctor.

Sarah M. Gawthrop, MD Sarah M. Gawthrop, MD As I sit down to write this, it is mid-May of 2020. We are months into the COVID-19 pandemic that turned our world upside down seemingly overnight. I honestly can’t remember the early days of this time too clearly. I learned quickly that to stay relatively sane, I need to focus on the here and now, not looking too far backwards or forward.

Collectively, as a CHOP community, we are dealing with a “new normal.” Within the primary care network, the challenge has been significant and yet we seem to have adjusted amazingly well. Some of the major changes to primary care during COVID-19 has been the increase in telehealth visits, the streamlining of well visits, the adjustments in scheduling templates to separate sick and well patients, and the separation of staff within the office to follow social distancing guidelines, with many now working from home.

I believe of these changes, telehealth has been a silver lining for many families and providers. It was impressive how quickly telehealth visits were set up within Epic, our electronic health record, and how both providers and patients adjusted to the technology so quickly. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than nothing? Absolutely!

You learn in medical school that 80% of a diagnosis is in the history taking. Telehealth has proven this to be true. Would I like to see the rash in person or listen to a patient with a stethoscope? Of course. However, it is a safer alternative for now—and if nothing else, a great screening tool for who needs to actually come in to the office. Telehealth is here to stay.

I do look forward to the day that we won’t need to wear masks throughout the work day. I also miss seeing some of my colleagues who are working from home. They have proven that many jobs can be done just as efficiently off-site, but it isn’t the same not being able to smile and laugh together. Even within the office, 6 feet feels far! It was nice having an office mate to run questions by and catch up on life with.

I have always been proud to be a primary care pediatrician. The experience of COVID-19 has amplified this pride. We are a resilient group. We are not only surviving this but thriving in some respects. The lessons we are learning now will not only serve us and our patients better in the future, but will also allow us to enjoy all the things we love about our job even more.

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