he New York City Public Library posted a playlist on Spotify titled “Missing Sounds of New York.” It includes hits like “Romancing Rush Hour” and “For the Love of Noisy Neighbors.” When I read this, I chuckled. Who would miss the sounds of the subway? Now, weeks into social distancing, I understand. In March, I brought second-year medical students to Primary Children’s to practice what we knew would be the last live session of history and physical exam. One of my students immediately sensed the change.
“It’s so quiet,” he said. “I don’t like the way this feels.” Years of volunteering at Primary in his history, he knew that the halls should have been bustling with children in wagons, the sounds of music therapy, physical therapy sessions on the stairs and bridges, and families taking photos with Spiderman. What would the “Missing Sounds of Primary Children’s” playlist include for you? It has been a quiet place while we have put protections in place for our patients, staff and volunteers.
Moving to “Orange” and now “Yellow” happened quickly, and the music that is Primary Children’s is starting to hum. Spontaneous hallway meetings between masked colleagues accomplish more than 10 emails and a Zoom. Teams of providers are rounding. Child life is delivering activities to cooped up children. Our diligent environmental staff are keeping everything gleaming and patients are returning to the buildings.
Have you had a chance to read Atul Gawande’s latest New Yorker article, "Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, a Regimen for Reentry"?
He insightfully points out that hospitals have been open all along. And it is okay. Frequent hand washing and surface cleaning, wearing masks to protect others, staying home when sick and maintaining a 6-foot distance when possible really works. A culture of safety, “I protect you and you protect me” works.
As disorienting as the rapid move from Red to Yellow feels, it is good for patients and good for us to work together. I am not sure I am ready to sit in a restaurant, go to a gym, or fly on an airplane, but coming to work feels comfortable. I have sure missed the vibrant environment that people bring and will welcome with appropriately distant and freshly sanitized open arms, the return of the sounds of Primary Children’s.
Adapted from Thriving in Pediatrics May 27, 2020.