Doctors are human, so are nurses, respiratory therapists and lab workers. Health care givers have families who love them and depend on them for sustenance. They have communities who see them in pain and commiserate with them.

Their unique role in a society’s life is the management of “the health care system;” a living, breathing entity built on the sincerity and dedication of many — from doctors, to nurses, to auxiliary workers whose oath is to honestly serve all without reservations, or distinction.

They do not, however, take an oath to be abused as has happened to many in the COVID pandemic.

Because they serve the whole state and do not discriminate against anyone, it is incumbent upon us, whatever our politics, that we do everything possible to protect them and the institutions they work in.

They are the pillars of the health care system. And they alone keep the institutions functioning to serve the public. They do it so well we often forget they are there and are as human as all of us.

My observations over the last four decades as a physician in Colorado were that in moments of my own or a colleague’s personal crises we still set off to take care of the sick.

Despite the roiling in our hearts, the job at hand was done with a calm, professional demeanor, without demur. What happens very rarely is a reciprocal concern from a patient. Rarely do patients ever ask, “How are you doc?” before reeling off lists of complaints that they expect to be treated and cured in the few minutes allocated.

Certain demanding patients treat physicians with such selfishness and contempt, they seem to be the world’s only patients — blind to an office or hospital full of sick people. Nonetheless, empathy from our patients is always greatly appreciated.

For the health care institutions to survive and thrive, it is necessary to have communities that care for them and their caregivers.

The caring I mean is: following well-reasoned instructions, participating in rational dialogues with physicians and nurses about our and our communities’ health.

Physicians’ management of health matters is based on knowledge accumulated over the long history of medicine — from Hippocrates to Jenner’s vaccine against smallpox and Pasteur’s and Koch’s work in bacteriology.

The science followed to diagnose and treat disease conditions is based on many years of study and training. Physicians and nurses are scientists whose work is based on the scientific method.

If hospitals, doctors and nurses serving the public good have an ethical obligation, that public has a responsibility to itself and to the men and women in white coats. Keeping themselves healthy; not harming themselves by engaging in dangerous practices should be expected of the public.

If the public is healthy, so is the health care system that society has established to take care of it. One can say that a bidirectional equation exists; there’s a reciprocal flow between the public good and health care providers’ well-being.

That relationship is jeopardized in the 21st century; large numbers of us have torn up our agreement. By refusing to be vaccinated against COVID 19, hospitals are now groaning under the burden of the unvaccinated sick in our ICUs.

Some members of the public believe they are better informed than scientists; or that their own individual rights supersede the rights of the whole public — their neighbors, family and those they come in contact with.

Here is the truth: many pandemics are in the offing for America and the world; we will either get vaccinated or die.

Doctors and nurses have free will; if the past is evidence enough, they can refuse treating certain patients — such as the unvaccinated. As happened in India in 2021, the health care system we take for granted could collapse under the weight of the dying unvaccinated.

But before these dire events overtake us, let’s look into our hearts and gently embrace ourselves, our communities, our health care providers with a bit of empathy.

Your doctors and nurses are very tired and it may not be long before they throw in the towel. It is alas, all on you, friends.

Pius Kamau, M.D., general surgery, is president of the Aurora-based Africa America Higher Education Partnerships; co-founder of the Africa Enterprise Group and president of the Consortium of African Diasporas in the U.S.A. He has been a National Public Radio commentator and a blogger, and is author of “The Doctor’s Date with Death.”

Load comments