There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has been a divisive issue prompting political, ideological and medical debates. No matter our views and beliefs, though, one thing that we should all agree on is that our hospitals, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, laboratory scientists, pharmacists and all the many health-care workers that it takes to be there for us when we need them—every day, night, weekend and holiday—are heroes.
There were many visible demonstrations of our support for these health-care heroes early on in the pandemic. Since then, health-care workers have continued to do their jobs every day, despite the fact that they know they are putting themselves and potentially their families at risk of infection.
Many of us know someone who has had COVID, and chances are they recovered with relatively mild illnesses. But these health-care workers see the most severe cases of COVID every day. They see the desperation in some of these patients’ eyes. These are not just “patients” to these health-care workers, they are people who are scared, struggling for breath and often alone. Despite the pressures on health-care workers due to the large numbers of severely ill patients they must care for every day, they often take time to hold a patient’s hand and provide the reassurance that family members are unable to. It is impossible to care for these patients days or weeks on end and not become attached to them. The recoveries are extremely gratifying and professionally rewarding; the deaths are huge emotional losses for which there often is no or little time to adequately process and grieve because there is another patient who needs attention.
Health-care workers are going on nine months treating these patients and exposing themselves to the risks, and they will likely continue to have COVID patients for the foreseeable future.
As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, I call on Idahoans to once again show our support for these health-care workers and our local hospitals by turning out to applaud these workers at the change of shift during the week leading up to Thanksgiving Day. At a time when our communities are divided about many issues, it is a tremendous boost to our health-care workers to know that we are united in our support of our local hospitals and health-care workers, the important work that they do and the sacrifices that they make. Please join in expressing your support and appreciation.
I also call on our governor to identify a day during that week leading up to Thanksgiving as a state day of thanksgiving for health-care workers.
Dr. David Pate is the former president and CEO of St. Luke’s Health System.