On March 6, 2020, I received the table of contents of articles to select for my monthly commentary for Contemporary Pediatrics. There were several fabulous articles to review but I first read the infectious disease article titled “What to tell parents about coronavirus and influenza” by Miranda Hester. I totally agree with the information about providing the influenza vaccine to all children aged 6 months and older, all pregnant women, and all who will come in contact with any baby aged younger than 6 months. However, between March 6, 2020, and March 19, 2020, the world in which we live, work, socialize, learn, and play has turned upside down and is spinning out of control, directly related to COVID-19.
Numerous questions have emerged and more emerge every day: How do we make sense of our world that changes direction within a millisecond of time? How do we talk with parents who are frightened for their children, especially those with a chronic illness, themselves, and the elders in their family? How do we comfort parents whose children can no longer attend school, and they themselves are suddenly out of work? What do we say to parents of adolescents, and young adults who believe that they will not be affected by COVID-19? How do we as health care professionals support our colleagues providing frontline diagnostic screening and care for patients with COVID-19 symptoms who are facing an unprecedented uncertainty about their personal well-being? How do we prevent “COVID-19–induced posttraumatic stress disorder” and “COVID-19–related suicides”?
Making sense of our world that changes direction within a millisecond
We are in uncharted territories and must rely on our national Infectious Disease experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for guidance on COVID-19 and how to diagnose and treat patients, and most importantly on how to prevent transmission. Health care providers (HCPs) should review the CDC website daily as it provides the most current information to inform clinical decision-making. Collectively, all HCPs must critically appraise every health care encounter to make the best possible decisions for the care of each individual to prevent further spread of this aggressive virus. Stop, think, if it doesn’t make sense or seem right, rethink your decision. Trust your core body of knowledge and feel empowered by your education and your clinical experiences that your clinical decisions interrupt millisecond changes and will succeed. Telehealth and telemedicine are more established in rural areas, but the reality in this moment in time is telehealth and telemedicine may be the best way to manage patients in urban and suburban settings who can stay home while seeking medical advice, care, and treatment.
Communicating with parents
Parents are also in uncharted waters with their children suddenly out of school about to have lessons online for the first time, and, for many, fears related to food insecurity. Parents may be out of work for an unknown period of time. Parents of children with a chronic illness are fearful of how the child will be affected if they contract COVID-19. Parents are also fearful for their healthy children because reliable statistics for how COVID-19 affects healthy children are not available. What can we say to the parents in our practices?