Patients look around and see everyone is in the same kettle of fish. We’re all experiencing the same thing so there’s a positive effect to be included in the entire trauma. Trauma care in groups is better than with individuals. I’ve noticed when people see others in the same situation, the shared trauma may result in some quelling of anxiety and depression.
During the pandemic my patients have not been coming to the hospital. There are fewer disruptions to their day and less planning involved to get here, but the effects of isolation are still there. I come in for resident teaching and do my rounds on the floors. I get to wear scrubs all day and jog to and from home. We (physicians) were short staffed at the beginning of the pandemic but have more flexibility with time.
After getting the vaccine, there’s enough staff to handle the calls and be available on the floor.
From what I’ve seen, patients don’t like having to come in if they absolutely don’t have to. It’s a better patient-centred model for people who come from far away. Not talking to patients directly, what we are perhaps missing is how the patient looks. It can tell us about their psychological state. Some believe this is essential, but I’m learning it’s not as essential as I once thought. I’m still seeing patients face to face on the floors, but my assessments are not that different when I don’t see them.
Patients with psychiatric disorders don’t mind being at home or being withdrawn. But as this has worn on, there’s been an increase in anxiety and depression because of the isolation. It’s something new for people with no psychiatric issues. It plays with your emotions, frustrations and anxieties. With constant fluctuation, a lot of people are getting apathetic or numb. There’s not enough evidence for me to say “go do this” but the mind that is busy doesn’t go into dysphoria or anxiety.
Dr. Shree Bhalerao is a Clinical Psychiatrist at St. Michael’s Hospital.
As told to Yuri Markarov. Photos by Yuri Markarov. This interview has been edited and condensed.