Welcome to COMS
We're heading into winter amidst a surge in coronavirus cases. Many of the institutions central to our sense of community are closed, and the events that help us maintain a sense of connection continue to be held remotely, if they are not canceled outright. Even a handshake or a hug feels dangerous. Everyone is struggling, but the struggle is especially acute for physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. Our risk of suicide is high in the best of times, and the risk factors have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Since 2018, the Central Oregon Medical Society has offered a free, confidential wellness program
. Other resources may be available at your workplace. I urge you to use them. And to be clear, I am not saying *if*. I do not want you to wait until you are in crisis to reach out. I want you to do it now, and tell your colleagues you have done so and encourage them to do so, too. I have used the St. Charles Caregiver Assistance Program, and it helped me through a particularly dark moment in my career. Let's remove the stigma of mental health resources. Let's normalize wellness.
And then I want you to talk with your friends and colleagues about what we can do to care for one another through this pandemic - and beyond. Offer support to a peer without them asking for it. And ask for support, even if you don't think you need it. Because we do need it.
Finally, demand that your organizational leaders commit themselves to supporting you and your fellow clinicians through the pandemic and beyond. Reforming systems is hard, especially in systems as complex and byzantine as ours, but losing colleagues to suicide is harder. This NEJM article offers some good ideas on how leaders can begin to address our needs: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2024834
Our work is rewarding, but it comes at enormous financial, mental, and emotional costs. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our patients to take care of ourselves - and each other.
Amy Tatom, FNP-C
President, Central Oregon Medical Society
November 14, 2020