Courage to Care

All, I know that these days of COVID-19 are very challenging. We are all stressed for some many valid and legitimate reasons. Yet, those of us who care for the ill and injured carry additional burdens for certain. Even more, those who find it in their hearts to care for us often have to carry even more! It takes an incredible amount of Courage to Care for other people. This,… and the fact that today is Match Day for residency programs… I was reminded of our Mission Statement at Carolinas Medical Center Emergency Medicine program and how it may reflect our Mission overall:

The mission of the Carolinas Emergency Medicine Residency Program is to promote the growth and evolution of physicians who have the courage to care for all patients everywhere.

Emergency physicians are at the forefront of delivery of medical care.  To be present at this position, it takes courage.  It takes courage to direct a resuscitation, to perform emergent procedures, and to take action when uncomfortable.  It takes courage to ask why, to look for answers, and to be questioned.  It takes courage to advocate for a patient, to hold a hand, and to protect the disenfranchised.  It takes courage to set the example of how to care for others.  Regardless of where graduates from Carolinas Medical Center Emergency Medicine Residency Program practice, whether in a large academic setting or a small community practice or some place in between, they will all have the courage to be the example of how superior care is delivered to all patients.

Carolinas Medical Center Emergency Medicine Residency Program has many unique attributes and assets, but every aspect of the program has a singular mission: to support the development of physicians in emergency medicine with the courage to care for their unique and diverse communities and to lead others in doing so.

Many on TV and the internet have been defining our plight as being akin to a war or a battle. Yes, those horrific events require courage to face to say the least, but let us not be self-aggrandizing. What we do does not need exaggeration to be dramatic. Life is drama. This then brings me to my last quote. A quote from one of my esteemed colleagues, Dr. David Callaway, who knows a thing or three about managing disasters. I think his words are wise and appropriate today:

This tsunami of COVID-19 information is quite literally drowning us. 

I am not sure if any of you have ever nearly drowned, but I have, the day after I proposed to my wife.  I had spent 4 years in the Navy and did some crazy things in the water – I could swim almost a mile with BDUs, boots, and a rifle.  And here I was, broken surf board, in the impact zone, 200 meters off shore in Costa Rica unable to get any buoyancy through the bubbles.  I could not stay afloat.  

I’d pop my head up and could see Jenny and my mom on the beach reading.  This was it. I began to panic – my chin just above the water, my heart pounded and for a moment, all I had was my lizard brain.

I took one good breath – a yoga breath – stopped struggling and went to the bottom.  I hit the floor much faster than I thought.  I opened my eyes, everything was still, and suddenly I could focus.

The water is only 10 feet deep.

I can hold my breath for 45-60 seconds.

I can bounce from the ocean floor to the surface and get a breath.

I can walk on the ocean floor 20 steps (about 1 meter a step) per breath.

So, 200 meters from shore, 20 meters per breath add 10% for fatigue and bad math.  I don’t need to swim, I can walk myself out of the ocean.  I popped up between the waves, looked at my bride to be on the shore, took a deep breath and focused on my mission – staying alive and getting to shore.

We are all near drowning and it is OK to be scared.  Courage is not an absence of fear, but the actions we take when scared. 

Pop up to the surface.  Take a breath.  Look to your team for support.  Focus.  Trust yourself.  We deal with violence and instability in the ED on a daily basis.  We can handle a virus named after a beer that is so bad, you have to drink it with a lime.

David W. Callaway, MD, MPA

Take a breath. Focus on our mission. Keep our heads.

Stay well. Our patients need our Courage to Care for them.

Sean M. Fox
Sean M. Fox

I enjoy taking care of patients and I finding it endlessly rewarding to help train others to do the same. I trained at the Combined Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics residency program at University of Maryland, where I had the tremendous fortune of learning from world renowned educators and clinicians. Now I have the unbelievable honor of working with an unbelievably gifted group of practitioners at Carolinas Medical Center. I strive every day to inspire my residents as much as they inspire me.

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  1. Sean,
    What a fantastic morsel to send out. Very much appreciated. I have been using your morsels more than ever to teach students who are interested in PEM but confined to non-clinic rotations at this time. Thanks for your weekly words of wisdom, and this week, inspiration.
    Melanie Prusakowski

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