Personal Disaster Plans
“I think another vitally important—and I mean vital importance in the same manner as vital signs—is for each hospitalist to have a personal disaster plan for their family/personal life,” says Mitchell Wilson, MD, medical director, FirstHealth of the Carolinas Hospitalist Services and section chief of Hospital Medicine in the Department of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “As the front line ‘foot soldier,’ the potential to harm our families during a pandemic is enormous.”
Dr. Garrett agrees. “One of the things that we’re not so good at in this country is coming up with emergency plans for our own family—even those of us who are in the medical business and take care of others,” he says. “Taking this step just makes good sense—and serves to be able to maximize your own availability and also be confident that you have the ways and means to know that your family is safe and secure and given the best opportunity to survive in a disaster.”
According to Dr. Wilson, families with vulnerable members, such as the young, elderly, and infirm, must have a plan in place to minimize the risk to them. “The hospitalist who comes home sick [or] infected is a danger to the very safe place [to] which [hospitalists and their families] seek refuge,” he says.
Preparedness includes delineating in your family what your points of contact will be. “Part of the stress that’s involved in being a physician and being expected to report to work [may involve] worrying where your family is or whether they have a safe meeting place; who’s picking up the children from school; does the school for my children have a plan, etc.,” says Dr. Garrett.
If you know that your children’s school has an emergency plan, your spouse’s workplace has a plan, and any relative in a long-term care facility has a plan, you’ll be much more likely to stay on the job and care for patients.
“And if my child is on a school bus that needs to be evacuated somewhere out of town,” he says, “I want to know there’s a phone number that my whole family knows to reconnect somehow.”