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Pandemic puts medical residents at high risk

6 95 29

As a newly minted attending physician, I could not have imagined my first months of independent practice would coincide with one of the most devastating medical disasters in U.S. history.

However unfortunate the timing, I am a fully trained physician, with the capacity to determine my involvement in the pandemic. I choose to work in the emergency department and care for COVID-19 patients. But I find myself with an ever increasing concern for medical trainees, who are unable to choose their roles during this time.

Somewhere between employee and student lies the land of medical residency. To become a board-certified “attending” physician in the United States, you must complete a residency. These years of training are considered the most challenging of a physician’s medical career. The difficulty stems from a combination of isolation, sleep deprivation and in some cases institutionalized abuse.

A systemic review published by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed the prevalence of depression or depressive symptoms among resident physicians ranged from 20.9% to 43.2%, a percentage that increases with each year of residency. In 2018, two New York City physician residents tragically took their own lives within several days of each other.

These same residency programs are now under the increased pressure of serving at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have spoken to residents during the pandemic who have expressed concern for their health and safety, including inadequate personal protective equipment, but many will not speak out for fear of repercussions by their institutions. Most of the residents I have spoken with asked that their quotes remain anonymous; some refused to be quoted at all, for fear their words may........