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Vulnerability in Health Care Heroes

I remember when my big sister got a high fever on Christmas Eve and everyone was worried so we called the doctor. Dr. Fasce came over right away, gave her some medicine, reassured us that she would be alright, calming our fears. He wouldn’t take any money, just wished us a Merry Christmas and went back out into the snowy darkness, leaving his warm glow behind. That’s when I knew I was going to be a doctor.

Today we are seeing the beauty of the profession in the dedication of the health workers who confront the brutality of this virus every day. I know of no greater expression of the human spirit than in the way these people are giving themselves for the well being of others. Yes, this is why they chose this work and they are answering the call for their services, but the cost is great. There is tremendous suffering. As one doctor said, “I cry every day.” It is extremely hard for many to acknowledge their limits when the needs are so overwhelming.

We need to make it more possible for health professionals to notice and accept when they can not go on any longer. They have to let themselves take a break, get relief and help when they need it. Even heroes need to be allowed to be human.

I co-authored an article with Richard Katz to bring attention to the human needs of people in this profession: “The Experience of Vulnerability: A Key to the Education of Health Professionals.” The article is posted here:

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