At Work

COVID-19 Dispatches: An ER Doc’s New Routine

When your job involves keeping front-line workers safe, you never get a day off

By Stephanie Bailey, '10 BA(Hons)

May 11, 2020 •

Wherever you look, there are members of our U of A community navigating life under the COVID-19 pandemic. They are the ones conducting hundreds of tests every day to protect our most vulnerable. Or making sure our grocery store shelves are stocked. Or adjusting to teaching and learning online in an age of physical distancing. They meet every new day with courage, compassion and creativity, whether it's cleaning cots at an emergency shelter or engaging students remotely via TikTok demos. We've asked a handful of U of A grads to record a few days in their everyday lives.

Name: Mandeep Sran, '13 MD, '18 PostGradCert(MedEd)

Job: Sran is an emergency medicine physician at both Foothills Medical Centre and the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary. He is also the medical director for Calgary's fire department and provides online medical support to EMS.

Education: Medical degree at U of A, residency in emergency medicine

Notable: A self-proclaimed gamer with no talent who continues to get rolled by his nephews for his lack of Fortnite skills.

Editor's note: Sran recorded his days in mid-April.

Day #1
2 p.m. - I fire off a few emails and do some research before my shift starts at 5 p.m. These days, a lot of my "free time" is spent checking COVID-19 updates and tracking down the latest research on the topic. Just finished reading an article on the latest CPR protocols, which recommends hands-only CPR for adults (while covering the patient's face with a cloth or mask) and standard CPR for kids, using filters to minimize the risk of infection. Good to know. It's part of my job to advise on personal protective equipment or new medical protocols to keep our front-line workers safe.

11:50 p.m. - After a long day, I overhear an exhausted nurse saying, "I wish the wave would just hit us already, I'm sick of all this waiting." Another colleague responds, "I wish it never hits us." The patient load these days is a bit slow for ER nurses who are used to running off their feet. You can tell that the waiting for COVID-19 cases to ramp up is making everyone anxious.

1 a.m. - I finally get home and enter the "de-con" station, a.k.a. the foyer. That's where I strip down and toss my clothes into the laundry before I hop into the shower. Though there's no real literature to support that this makes any difference, my wife and I have decided to take this precaution for peace of mind.

Day #2
4 p.m. - I make my mother-in-law's recipe for Thari Wala chicken - my wife's favourite. Turns out it was not a total disaster, and I pack some leftovers for dinner at work.

7:30 p.m. - Just talked to a family over the phone about their terminally ill father who came in with sepsis. We discussed the patient's goals of care. Unfortunately, there's limited access to visitors because of COVID-19. I'm not sure I was able to truly express how sick their loved one is, partly because they couldn't see him, and partly because of a language barrier.

I can't help but wonder if this patient's situation could have been avoided had he come in earlier. Many people are avoiding emergency rooms these days - for good reason. But there may be some unintended consequences.

1:30 a.m. - After my decontamination routine at home, I head into my office to meditate. I've stepped up my meditation practice. Good way to clear my head now that I can't go to the gym.

3 a.m. - After I do the healthy thing, I load up my Playstation 4 with NBA 2K20 to help relax before bed. Man, do I miss the NBA.

Day #3
11 a.m. - It's my only day off this week, so my wife and I plan to make the most of it. We do an online workout video together. Up next: a walk along the river.

1 p.m. - It's a weird time to be house hunting. But here we are at a viewing. The real estate agent offers us masks and gloves and waits outside while my wife and I do a self-guided tour, careful not to touch anything.

Day #4
2:30 p.m. - Just finished the fourth meeting of the day, this one was with Punjabi Community Health Services, where I sit on the board of directors. The organization is finding new ways to support clients in terms of mental health, addictions and family violence. Based on the updates we are receiving, I worry domestic violence may be increasing across the country.

5 p.m. - I think about the impact of Alberta Health Services' no-visitor policy. One visitor will be allowed for end-of-life situations and only in exceptional cases in the emergency department. Absolutely necessary step to ensure safety for everyone - but it will take a toll on patients and families.

2 a.m. - It was a really, really busy day. Meditating post-shift is still the most refreshing part of my day.

Day #5
9:45 p.m. - It's my fifth shift in a row this week. My empathy meter is reading low. I need to stay focused and kind toward everyone. Good to know I have a three-day break coming up.

11 p.m. - I try to fast once a week and today is the day. On fasting days, I need to hydrate, but I realize I've been drinking far less water these days just to avoid the inconvenience of taking off my mask.

2 a.m. - 3 a.m. - After meditating, I open my laptop and start my nightly routine of reading up on the latest news and research. I check in with the weekly EM:RAP educational podcast about emergency medicine. Everything is changing so quickly amid the pandemic.

Day #6
11:55 p.m. - The patient whose family I chatted with over the phone earlier this week died. His wife was able to be there as he passed, but his children weren't. It breaks my heart that people can't be with their loved ones during this time. You suck, COVID-19.

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