The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge the world has faced since the Second World War. The new historical divide will be termed as B.C. (Before Corona) and A.C. (After Corona). There are uncertainties and lots of questions about the future of almost every domain including health, practice pattern, and career in medicine. It will take several months or even years for all of us to recover from the setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is always light after the dark. We, ophthalmologists, have witnessed it during our professional life several times while restoring the sight of our blind patients. The after COVID-19 era will put hygiene, health, hospitals, and the healthcare industry in focus. We will be witnessing several necessary changes in the near future with the more global focus on health, health education and increased awareness among public for sanitation, hygiene, healthy lifestyle as well as an increasing trend of digital-health (virtual consultation) and telemedical conferences (webinars) for exchange of knowledge.All these measures will help us to prepare in a better way to fight with such pandemic in the future. All members of the ophthalmic fraternity need to stay united, help, support, and guide each other during this difficult time. -From Lock-Down Diary of a Doctor Couple
As India is under lock-down status till May 3, 2020, many healthcare professionals/doctors are staying at home or seeing the limited number ofpatients or providing only emergency services. Ever since we learnt of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we had been anticipating and expecting certain inconveniences like the present lockdown assuming that it would continue off and on till the end of June or July 2020 or even more. One cannot neglect the complexity of a COVID-19 pandemic, knowing the need for physical distancing, staying at home to flatten the curve, till herd immunity is developed or a definite treatment and/or vaccine is available. As an ophthalmologist, it is also our responsibility to ensure the safety of ourselves, our family members, our patients, and our staff.
Our city (Kota) is home to more than 200,000 medical or engineering aspirants who come here for taking admission in various coaching institutes. This city termed as “Kashi of Education” by honorable Prime Minister of India and the annual turnover of theKota’s coachingindustry is about ?1500 crore. We have started our practice (SuVi Eye Institute and Lasik Laser Center) in Kota (Rajasthan) in 2006 and enjoyed meeting with these young students who come to this city from every part of India. At present, our routine OPD services are closed and we are seeing only emergency cases. We had taken an early initiative to step up COVID-19 infection control protocols in our hospital and educate our patients to practice physical distancing, frequent hand wash, use of masks, and staying at home, etc, to stay healthy.
In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and healthcare workers are working as frontline corona warriors––and many of them sacrificed their life while saving patients during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.(1,2) In the fight against coronavirus, the brave medical army stands strong with thermometers, personal protective equipment, stethoscopes, monitors and ventilators as their weapons. Not to forget, medical researchers are working day in and night out against all odds, hoping to find the antidote to the disease.
Ophthalmologist residents, ophthalmology fellows, young and senior ophthalmologists (who are staying at home during the lock-down time) are also stressed and worried about the future, career, practice, finances, and health, etc. The purpose of this write-up is to share 19 ways to unlock your life during the CORONAVIRUS LOCK-DOWN time. You can use some of these tips to stay happy, healthy, and hopeful for a better time coming in the near future.
Communicate with your friends within ophthalmology or outside ophthalmology by phone and by email or by video call.
For the head of units/ophthalmic leaders/practice owners, it is also the time to communicate clearly and frequently with staff/team members and encourage them to stay positive and utilize the lockdown period in the most productive way. We have communicated with most of our mentors, ophthalmic leaders, friends and colleagues in India and worldwide (John A. Moran Eye Center, Salt Lake City, USA, Sydney Eye Hospital, Sydney, Australia, Dr. R.P. Center of Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS, New Delhi and AdvancedEye Center, PGIMER, Chandigarh) asking about their health and well-being. Most of our mentors and colleagues were very prompt in replying and also very happy to get reconnected.
Outline plan to organize your life:
Ophthalmology can be a busy branch and most of the high-volume ophthalmologists are very busy forcing them to allocate less time to organize their personal life. We have all got office desk disorganized, drawer chock-full of paperwork that we have never had time to sift through and organize. Whether it is bills, receipts, doctor’s prescriptions (about our own health), insurance, or financial papers, utilize the lock-down time to turn that mountain into a molehill by sorting through. Apart from freeing up space and de-cluttering our storage, we will get the added benefit of having all critical documents filed in one place so we are not turning the house upside down when we really need them.
Throughout our lives as an ophthalmologist, we have been dreaming of such an atmosphere and peaceful existence. Prepare yourself to utilize this time now. Start your day with yoga/meditation, enjoy nature, read the books you always wanted to cook, write, or sing. The options are limitless. Above all, use this opportunity to re-establish the bond with your family, colleagues, and friends again. The family, friends, colleagues who were not getting attention due to busy lifestyles and lack of time for them: makeup to them and make the time spent in their company memorable and joyous.
The zoom meeting/ eCMEs/webinars/podcasts, etc. can help us to upgrade our knowledge and reconnect with leaders and colleagues. Indian Medical Association (IMA), All India Ophthalmological Society (AIOS), Delhi Ophthalmological Society (DOS) and pharmaceutical industry are doing an excellent task to organize various webinars that are being shared on Facebook page and YouTube as well. Some of these virtual conferences are generating more attendance than the real conferences. Also one can always visit later and watch the presentation using the link via Facebook or YouTube platforms.
New hobby (such as cooking, gardening, painting, listening to music, etc.) can be learned during the lock-downperiod.
Ask for help from mentors for any matter related to a professional career.
If you are depressed or feeling low, connect with your friends or well-wishers, and never hesitate to ask for help.
Visualize your inner-selfby engaging in mindful meditation, yoga, etc.
Visualize your life, your strength, and your limitation as well as visualize your last journey. Make a plan to build your strength and overcome your limitations.
Involve yourself to help others.
You can join hands with social clubs or NGOs etc. to provide food, distribute mask, and other essential items during this pandemic.
Regulate your life by maintaining healthy food habits, a healthy lifestyle, and healthy sleep habits.
It is not uncommon to see many colleagues posting a message on social media at odd hours during late-night hours. This can lead to sleep disruption and disturbance of the biological clock. The negative impact of sleep disruption on immunity, mood, and productivity iswell known. Without the structure of having to get to the workplace, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy sleep habits like going to bed later and getting up later. Changes to our sleep cycle now could go on to impact our mood in the weeks and months ahead.
Utilize Me-time: During the coronavirus lock-down, all of us are getting ample time to be alone.
We need to utilize ‘Me-time’ and reflect on our future goals, physical and mental health, career aspirations, and more. Make plan for next 5 weeks, 5 months and the next 5 years, and write in a diary. Utilize this time in thinking about everything we want for ourselves, but usually don’t get the time to ponder over.
Stay Connected with your patients by virtual consultation and digital health platforms for follow-up, spread positivity and stay motivated.
Advances in mobile technology in particular mean that we can stay connected through calls, text, WhatsApp, email, etc. Use this time to get in contact with patients and people who may need your help. Connect with colleagues, well-wishers and contribute to a sense of togetherness that is going to be pivotal in our ability to cope both now and in the weeks ahead. Try to connect with people who haven't heard from you in a while or people in our community who are likely to be isolated right now.
Learn new things and Let the creativity flow:
Is piano/guitar/mouth organ that was bought a few years ago gathering dust in the closet? Take it out, dust it off. Take a YouTube tutorial and make it a habit to sit with family and practice for a few days. Learn to dance or sing using karaoke with family members and this exercise will boost your mood by the release of endorphins and other happiness hormones. Bring-out your inner Kishore Kumar or Lata Mangeshkar. You can share your performance with other professional colleagues on social media platforms. If you are not musically inclined then utilize your time to cook a new dish or learninga new language through very decent language tutorials available online.
We can unlock the world by using so many online resources (related to any field) that are available to us. Young ophthalmologists and residents-in training can utilize this time and online resources to view surgical videos of routine and complex cases.
Connect with sweet memories:
Going through old photo albums—and arranging them in the process—can bring us unbounded joy. Several studies have found that flipping through photo albums makes us significantly happier than chocolate, music, watching TV or drinking our favorite cocktail.
Keep track of finances, and discuss with your financial advisor how to save money to survive for a few months during and afterCOVID-19 pandemic.
Financial planning is one of the most important aspects of such situation. Let us hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
Digital House Keeping and Digital Detox
Spare some time for ‘Digital House Keeping’ by reorganizing the digital life, naming photos, surgical videos, old text files by putting them in an appropriate folder. It is important to check a systems backup and updates of our operating system. Most important, we need to change our passwords and keep them safe. A ‘digital detox’ or ‘digital distancing’ refers to a period of time when a person refrains from using tech devices such as smartphones, televisions, computers, tablets, and social media sites. ‘Detoxing’ from digital devices is often seen as a way to focus on real-life social interactions without distractions. By forgoing digital devices, at least temporarily, one can let go of the stress that stems from constant connectivity. Use digital detox time for exercising, yoga, and meditation.
Outline Plan for Practice Management /Profession/Career:
Utilize this lock-down time to prepare a plan for practice management and career and future life. Staff training is very important to ensure every team member is fully trained about all precautions/protocols etc to minimize transmission of COVID-19 infection among each other and to patients.
Write a book or Write a letter to your future self:
Our daughter Ishita has also completed her two short storybooks. We have utilized the lock-down time to complete our books as well as several articles related to new normal post-COVID-19 Time. We have completed two books entitled- ‘Secrets of Successful Doctors: A complete guide fulfilling Medical Career' (Figure 1)’ and ‘A Hippocratic Odyssey: Lessons from a Doctor Couple on Life in Medicine, Challenges, and Doctorpreneurship.’ (Figure 2) The first edition of the first book is available on Amazonand we are finalizing the second edition. The second book will be published by the Bloomsbury India (3,4)
Figure 1. Cover page of our 400-page book ‘Secrets of Successful Doctors: A complete guide fulfilling Medical Career'. The First Edition is available on Amazon and the Second Edition of this book will be published by Maple Press in July 2020. Link
Figure 2. Cover page of our 400-page book- ‘A Hippocratic Odyssey: Lessons from a Doctor Couple on Life in Medicine, Challenges and Doctorpreneurship. This book will be published by Bloomsbury India. Link
New Focus, new opportunity, new life, new work style after COVID-19.
We need to see a new focus, a new opportunity, an innovative way to overcome the setback posed by a coronavirus. The whole world is going to have to take that approach when this is all over, but we can do it in our own lives now. Most people are becoming kinder, and helping each other. There is a boom in volunteering to help others and there is an increased focus for hygiene, health, hospital, and health awareness.
COVID-19 pandemic has put health on focus and the corona crisis will work as a catalyst for the governments and health policy workers in India (and globally) to invest more budgets in healthcare to deal with such pandemic. For Govt. official and policymakers in India, it is time to take the health of 1.3 billion people seriously by investing in health, hygiene, and hospitals (introducing new facility and upgrading the existing govt. run hospitals) and by appointing new doctors and healthcare workers to improve doctor–population, and population–hospital beds ratio, so we strengthen our ability to fight with such pandemic in future. All members of the ophthalmic fraternity need to stay united, help, support, and guide each other during this difficult time.
- Pandey SK,Sharma V. A tribute to frontline corona warriors--Doctors who sacrificed their life while saving patients during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Indian J Ophthalmol.2020 May;68(5):939-942.
- Pandey SK,Sharma V.Toolkit for survival: How to run and manage ophthalmic practices during the difficult time of COVID-19 crisis. Indian J Ophthalmol.2020 May;68(5):944-947.
- Pandey Suresh K. Secrets of Successful Doctors: A Complete Guide to a Fulfilling Medical Career. Maple Press 2020 (In Press).
- Pandey Suresh K, Sharma Vidushi. A Hippocratic Odyssey: Lessons from a Doctor Couple on Life in Medicine, Challenges and Doctorpreneurship. Bloomsbury India 2020 (In Press).