April 2020 President’s Message

April 2020 President’s Message

Getting creative: Six-word stories might help us deal with stress

by Patricia Wyatt-Harris, MD —

I am having a difficult time coming up with a meaningful column this month. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Those are two words that I never thought I’d use.

It is unbelievable that a virus can cripple our medical system and bring down the economy. Physicians work hard every day. We have very advanced technology with successful treatments for a myriad of conditions, so that makes this even harder to fathom.

I have restricted my practice to gynecology with an emphasis on menopause, so most of my services are non-essential. I am happy to reschedule the surgeries that were already scheduled. Those procedures are medically indicated but not emergent. Supplies need to be conserved and the potential for exposures reduced.

My scheduled has been severely curtailed. I am used to being busy all day, every day, but that has changed. I am definitely not complaining, but like everyone, I am worried about the future.

I also feel guilty. I see health care workers putting in long hours. They are putting themselves at risk and, in turn, their families are also at risk. The pictures out of New York City are devastating.

We are fortunate to have a forward-thinking governor and Sedgwick County commissioners who took early steps to limit exposure. As I’m writing this, the peak is still coming. Hopefully it will not be terribly high and the curve will be relatively flat.

Before the pandemic hit, I was going to write a column about physician burnout. That is still an issue, especially for physicians on the front lines. Other “nonessential physicians” like me are dealing with the stress of limited patient visits. This leads to worries about how to keep and pay our office staff. Please reach out to mental health professionals if the stress is overwhelming.

One way of coping might be to become creative. According to legend, Ernest Hemingway boasted that he could write a short story with only six words. He allegedly challenged several of his fellow writers. His story was:

“For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”

I have written my own six-word story in this COVID-19 crisis.

“Abandoned playground. Caution tape. Open soon.”

Even if you don’t have much time, this exercise might help you deal with stress. If you would like to share, please send your stories to MSSC.

Thanks to all the physicians in Sedgwick County. This won’t last forever.