We are shining a light on our #healthcareheroes. Meet Emergency Medicine resident Paula Diaz, D.O.
What inspires you to be a caregiver?
One of my passions in medicine is the ability to help people when they are in their most vulnerable state. Whether it’s an unconscious trauma patient or a new mother who needs reassurance that her baby’s spit up is just spit up — my driving force as an Emergency Medicine resident physician is fueled by the interactions I have with my patients and the relationships I establish with each and every one of them.
How has your typical workday changed? What work are you doing or doing differently because of COVID-19?
Residency in and of itself has by far been one of the toughest challenges I have faced. Add a pandemic that only comes every hundred years or so and you have a recipe for disaster. As a first-year resident there are many questions that are constantly on my mind — did I work up the patient appropriately? Am I missing anything that could harm this patient? Is this patient OK to go home? With COVID, another layer of stress has been added because I now have to ask myself how to keep myself and my staff members safe. I have to constantly rework my decisions to limit exposure, which is a challenge within itself. I feel personally responsible not only for my patients’ well-being but for the well-being of the nursing staff, Radiology techs, essentially anyone that I ask to help me take care of my patients. This is a responsibility I have never experienced before. Although this weighs on me every single shift, I also see how seamlessly the Emergency Room staff bands together to provide exceptional patient care: This is one of the many reasons why I love being part of this team.
Not only has our day-to-day work changed, but our residency curriculum has been modified. Other residents and I have been redeployed to assist in other areas in the hospital such as the ICU. Seeing how quickly our EM residency leadership sprung into action to make sure our education did not fall by the wayside and how tirelessly they have worked to ensure we still have a meaningful residency experience is a testament to what I heard as a medical student — that Christiana’s Emergency Medicine Residency program is one of the best in the region.
What is keeping you motivated during these uncertain times?
Comradery! I was on my MICU rotation when it began to cohort COVID patients. The way the nursing staff, respiratory techs, advanced practice clinicians, intensivists, the other residents, and countless more banded together to ensure the safety of one another was an experience I will never forget. When I returned to the Emergency Department it was a different staff but again the same sentiment. To know that I am part of a team who not only has the patient’s best interest but each other’s best interest at heart is what makes the grueling hours of residency worth it. Lastly, my co-residents — from senior to intern Emergency Medicine residents, I have seen every single one of them step up to the plate when they were asked to pick up a shift, be redeployed to the ICU, or work in our COVID core.
What advice do you have for your fellow caregivers?
Continue the teamwork and be kind to one another. We are all fighting our own battles and it costs nothing to just be nice. Most importantly be kind to yourself! It’s ok to be upset, scared, or angry at times. In the words of Mr. Rogers, “There’s no person in the whole world like you and I like you just the way you are.”
What advice do you have for our community?
The Delaware community has done an amazing job following social distancing guidelines and for that I want to say “thank you!” Thank you for keeping us health care workers safe. As we start to open up remember that we are not completely out of the woods. Along with wearing masks and social distancing please, please, please wash your hands!