Longtime emergency room doctor helps coworkers deal with stress

Updated: Apr. 21, 2020 at 9:02 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - While health care workers are being hailed as heros their colleagues also want them to know it’s ok to feel the fear and anxiety the COVID-19 pandemic induces. An experienced ER doctor is helping his co-workers work through those feelings.

Dr. Jay Kaplan serves as the Medical Director of Care Transformation at LCMC Health. He expresses some of the feelings he and other health care workers are feeling right now in his poems. One reads, “You hear the voices, you are not good enough. If you were you would have saved that patient.”

Kaplan says he doesn’t consider himself a poet, but another line reads, “You chose the wrong path. You should be doing something else.” Instead he says the poems offer him a way to organize his feelings over 41 years practicing emergency medicine.

This one mentions just a few of the fears coursing through the minds of health care professionals during the COVID-19 crisis. Kaplan said, “The feelings that everybody is experiencing are sadness, grief, anxiety, fear and mix all of those together it makes for a pretty stressful situation.”

He uses his poems as a tool in his role as LCMC Care Transformation Specialist. He said, “We talk at LCMC Health about providing a little bit extra for our patients and we feel like we also need to do the same thing for our staff.”

Kaplan says studies show healthier, happier staff lead to better patient outcomes.

Rachel Nickles is the Manager of Medical ICU at University Medical Center. She says his visits really make a difference. Nickles described Kaplan as, “Unique, very personal, very open.” She said it’s important just to have someone with such experience sharing encouragement.

“He is wonderful. He was just very engaging. The positive feedback I received from the staff . . .we're actually having him follow up this week in regards to another update.”

Kaplan said, “When people ask me what kind of doctor I am I tell them I am a people doctor and so I have over the years very much focused on my relationship with my patients that's why working with our hospitals to improve the patient experience has made sense.”

In his poem “Potholes and Portals” Kaplan compares our journey to the often maligned streets of New Orleans, but he says instead of falling in we can use them as a gateway for change. “Where we can understand that the road is the road. We're on the road that's not going to change really what we have to do is somehow change ourselves.”

A road he feels we still have a long way to navigate, but one he thinks we can all hopefully learn something from and come out better on the other end. It closes, “Inside this portal, you, we will not be deterred.

Kaplan emphasized that it’s not just doctors and nurses, but all hospital staff including security, maintenance and environmental specialists working together to create the best environment for patients and sharing in the stress and anxiety.

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