Caring for Patients During Chaos

November 3, 2023   |   PA

During the beginning of October of 2023, we became witnesses to absolute pandemonium…chaos. A land that has always been on the alert suddenly endured an attack across its border which resulted in unimaginable atrocities. A declaration of war was instituted within forty-eight hours. The Middle East has now become a powder keg that could bring other countries into the war, including the United States. 

We, as Americans are observing and experiencing complete disorder. How do we react? When things are in utter confusion from the emergence of war, all people fall into a state of emotional chaos. We begin to see things differently and to look at life differently. We develop feelings that are foreign to us such as hatred, anger, fear, frustration, anxiety, doubts for the future, and loss of control. These emotions could completely cloud our perspective and have the ability, unless we are aware, to completely affect the way we deliver healthcare. As healthcare professionals, we must be better than this.  Our attitude to healing the sick must be paramount and exceed every other bias or emotion. We are called, and I know some may take umbrage with that definition, but we are committed to “do no harm.” We must be greater than the circumstances. 

Another appropriate word for the present situation is pandemonium. We are observing anarchy, discord, lawlessness, terrorism both at home and abroad and those whom we treat for illnesses are in a complete uproar. Etymology is the study of the origins and development of words and pandemonium derives from a place of demons in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Another example of this often-used word is war. War has all the attributes. These situations are not foreign to any student of history, as history has demonstrated what evil lies in the heart of mankind, which did not end in the 20th Century. 

Here we are in a new century where we postulated that barbarity and inhumanity could no longer survive. Adversity and chaos on this scale is almost unimaginable in our modern world. We as healthcare providers need to focus on our listening skills. We and our patients are personally affected, and we cannot encourage our patients to harbor revenge and hatred. We must rise to this occasion and not develop apathy. We must remember our sacred responsibility to care for all our patients regardless of their country of origin or the color of their skin. Anything short of total unbiased attention to the details of patient complaints and medical and psychological intervention would be to violate our oath and our patient’s trust. Many of us may require contemplation and mental meditation before leaving our homes and entering our workplaces. We also need to be on guard for acts of terrorism in the workplace. Yes, it was difficult to navigate healthcare during the Covid 19 epidemic and the death and dying and the hopelessness, but we managed, we survived, and we PAs and NPs may all be called to do the same today. 

I witnessed on television an Israeli EM physician; he was caring for an Israeli citizen on one stretcher and a wounded HAMAS patient on another. I recall fifty-six years earlier: I was a very young man, caring for a wounded American soldier and, having as my next patient, a Viet Cong soldier. This challenges us as civilian members of both medical and nursing teams and, in these times, we need to be particularly attentive to render nondiscriminatory health care to whomever lies before us or whomever we counsel. This prevents us from becoming part of the problem and instills in us, in the future, pride in our professions. William Arthur Ward wrote, “Wise are they that have learned these truths; Trouble is temporary. Time is tonic. Tribulation is a test tube.” 

Written For CM&F By: Robert M. Blumm, PA, DFAAPA, PA-C Emeritus
CM&F Clinical Advisor


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