I have never felt afraid at work before

26th March 2020

This article/post is written in the past tense because I would like to imagine this is all over. 

I am a doctor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and medical school did not prepare me for navigating the waters of a global pandemic. Quick adaptability, change to our everyday practises, leadership, teamwork, fast learning  – and we managed to somehow continue floating. 

The uncertainty of the whole situation sent my anxiety levels sky high, and I developed a new feeling at work – Fear. I have never felt afraid at work before, and this was a new emotion I had to find ways to deal with and also…..hide. I was afraid for my family and friends, I was afraid for my patients and colleagues, I was afraid for the world and what would happen to humanity. But I had to be brave, I had to hide the fear for my patients – I could see their worry too.  

Then I would feel guilty for feeling scared  – how dare I feel this, what about my amazing colleagues working in ITU and A&E? Despite continuing to work in the obstetrics and gynaecology wards –  I felt like I was not doing enough to help with the pandemic. I couldn’t win. 

So scrubs on, mask  & visor on – lets keep delivering babies. I love that about my job – despite Covid 19, I had some sense of beautiful normality as women still have babies; life keeps giving life. 

I have never had my resilience tested more than during this time –  I wished I could bury my head in the sand and pretend Covid19 wasn’t real. But I felt like I couldn’t, I had to keep reading the articles, updates and tracking the numbers– I was a doctor and it was my duty to stay informed. I will not lie this sometimes left me feeling even more anxious and scared. 

I am still learning how to cope with what is happening in the world – things that have helped me are journaling, yoga, mindfulness, exercise, podcasts, books and talking – I cannot stress how much talking has been helping me. We have to keep talking – and we have to keep asking “are you ok, Doc?”

I walked into the ward one day – in the earlier days of the pandemic – very obviously completely frantic about the situation. One of my senior colleagues said something to me that I will never forget

You can only control what you can control”.

And so I started to focus on the things I could control; what I ate, my exercise, my phone calls to loved ones, my reassurance to patients, my personal growth during a difficult time. 

I know we will rise from this stronger, better and more united. We are in this together – and will never stop asking everyone “are you ok?” 

This post was written by Dr Stephanie Gorgeiveska, Obstetric and Gynaecology speciality registrar and Founding Ambassador of the YOD foundation.