Dr. Young: Ode to the road trip; ‘Are we there yet?’
When my brothers and I were young there were no screens to pass the time during long car rides. We would blaze down I-95 in the family station wagon playing hours of the license plate game, the alphabet game, the Jell-O game and my parents’ least favorite, the “are we there yet?” game. To be fair, this question was not really a game, but more of an annoying chirp from the back seat that would fill the void between deciding our next gaming adventure. There was usually a pause before the answer that, I can only imagine, was an opportunity for my parents to draw straws on who had to answer the question. But, for a kid, the reply was a necessary benchmark in our quest to reach our final destination. Ten hours? Five hours? One hour? Twenty minutes? Finally, we have arrived!
But what happens when you are on a road trip that does not have a clear destination or time of arrival? It is our nature to ask the question about an estimated time of arrival because it allows for strategic allocation of resources. When should I eat? When is the next bathroom break? Do I have time for a nap? All very important decisions to make while on a road trip.
Unfortunately, this COVID-19 journey we are all on together, does not have a clear destination. So, while we can ask about “when,” there is no responsible answer to this question. The frustrating ambiguity is palpable and since none of us volunteered to take this trip, it is easy to feel that a great injustice has occurred. But, before we are blinded by our indignation, let’s take a moment to remember the sights we have seen along the way… as well as a brief adventure forward to the sights still to come.
Porter sits one mile from the center of town on South Street. It has been the location for much of the thinking and planning related to healthcare delivery and access for our patients in a COVID-19 world. As our knowledge has grown over the past two months about this illness, we have responded in ways that felt responsible to accomplish the primary objective of keeping our patients and workers safe. The campus and its associated clinics have been implementing algorithms with respect to telemedicine, visitors, wayfinding and PPE. We are continuously bathed in locally supplied hand sanitizer that smells better than any other product on the market. Area restaurants like Two Brothers, Cubbers and Green Peppers have delivered more delicious meals to our employees than I will ever admit to eating. Community members with extra iPads are giving Helen Porter residents access to virtual visits with their families and friends. These are just a small sample of the beauty we have witnessed on our journey.
And the road forward?
It will look different than it has in years previous, but the Porter providers and staff are the same and remain incredibly committed to the mission of delivering high quality care. Telehealth will be a permanent strategy for care delivery in Porter’s future. There are so many benefits to this practice including less time on the road, savings on gas money, and everyone can wear their comfy jammie bottoms! The face-to-face visits remain important too and will require some patience and flexibility in the coming months as we all adjust to “screening,” regular masking, and even “parking lot” waiting rooms. Doors on the Porter campus will experience a phased re-opening as we develop screening protocols that make sense and accomplish the goal of safe access to patient care, and Helen Porter will need to remain highly vigilant for some time to come.
Similarly, lab and radiology services are undergoing process improvements in direct response to social distancing directives and the reality of foot traffic in the halls of our hospital.
Some of these things will happen slower than many will want. I get that. For an ER doc, I can tell you that the timeframe I typically want things done was yesterday, so this part is hard for me too. I do, however, recognize the wisdom of a deliberate, stepwise approach to these changes. And we have a dedicated team that is mapping this out to the tiniest detail.
Trust me, in many ways, turning things off was a lot less stressful than turning them back on again!
So, “are we there yet?” Nope. But don’t forget to look out the window once in a while and enjoy the view — there are a lot of wonderful things happening in our community both at Porter and far beyond its walls. It would be a shame to miss them.
Dr. Amanda Young, MD, is Porter Medical Center Emergency Department Medical Director.
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