I had a thrilling conversation with Dr. Kristina Brovig. Kristina is a GP in the UK and I was so grateful she shared with me the other side of life as a doctor – the life side. And how in fact, in times like this, that all gets very muddled.
Signs of Crisis
Kristina got warning of the health crisis very early on. Married to an Italian, she was close to the developments in Italy and knew it was a matter of time until the crisis reached the UK. After the early ski-season, one of the many ways that helped Covid-19 ‘globalise’, she started tightening precautions at her practice and ramped-up on tech to be ready for what was to come.
As Covid-19 hit London, Kristina was able to give care to her patients remotely. Despite the government’s choice to centralise all testing, she was able to provide extra support to the anxious patients who were told to dial 111 and just wait. In fact, she believes the usage of preventative measurements assisted her patients in staying away from hospital.
As to her usual patients, most interrupted regular care and more difficult cases had to be carefully evaluated to balance the risks.
At the peak of the crisis
During the hardest times, Kristina got short spells of sleep as she got her patients to keep her updated on their key metrics every 4 hours through WhatsApp. At a time where this was the only way, patients would self-check temperature and oxygen saturation and as needed record themselves coughing.
I have talked to many businesses where the practices had to change. But, as a doctor, all of Kristina’s business practices had to change. Prevented from seeing patients, it was technology that led the way.
Helping patients manage anxiety
Care is due to those who are ill and need it, but also to those who are worried about an illness that presents very little answers. One of the new things Kristina did was a newsletter out to patients. She felt people were not getting sufficient information and put it out there to her patients on what to worry about and what not to worry.
She got an overwhelming response and the emails even went viral, which served the intended purpose of helping inform people and, at the same time, reduce the anxiety. Whilst it is not a practice she will continue post the end of this crisis (whenever that is), it was something that clearly put her in a differentiated position with her patients.
After the crisis
Care is not back to normal. People are not wanting to go back to the doctor just yet. Her practice is finding creative quick ways to get tests done, in a socially distanced manner. But the truth is, people want a break from worrying about health for the summer. Who can blame them? However, Kristina is increasingly concerned about the speed at which people started socialising and what that can do to the tail of the wave.
Looking forward, Kristina believes a lot will change in the way medicine is conducted and even in the way practices organise themselves. A large part of good care is the ability to investigate history and symptoms. Everyone’s time can be saved as these things can happen remotely. Also, when emergencies hit, time can be saved by “seeing” a patient remotely at first to help manage the symptoms. Kristina is really hoping these new practices can help her run less late in general!
However, soon part of the care can not be changed – if there is no examination, the breast lump may be missed. A scan may not be part of a regular check. Then what?
A doctor’s life
As the crisis kicked in, one thing that Kristina knew she had to sacrifice was everything else! She ran non-stop for weeks trying to care for c. 40-50 ill patients at one time.
Her husband, who is usually in Milan was now at home. Her son, age 12, started according to her own words, homeschooling himself. In fact, she is convinced he took a course on Minecraft, and excelled at it! However, it was better to be on Minecraft with 8 friends than completely isolated. When asked about screen time in times like these, Kristina is clearly more worried about personal isolation, especially for youngsters or those with no siblings.
The family also benefited from space and sought to have a floor in the house for each, especially a space where they could close the door to their ‘mess’. Deliveroo also became their best friend. Amongst the chaos, they sought to make mealtime sacred, and Kristina reckons she only missed a few.
These were unprecedented times. When I asked Kristina about how she managed through and stayed productive, her honest answer?
I just ploughed through it!
Sometimes, she even brushed her teeth with her phone on mute. People were scared and there was no other way. From someone who always wanted to be a doctor, this is no surprise.
Keeping perfectionism at bay
This crisis has been particularly hard for mental health. Whether people had previous issues, or for those facing a newly found anxiety or personal isolation, or simply for those trying to manage the same but all more intensely, these were uneasy times. For Kristina, the key was “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good“. What mattered was that the family was together and safe.
As a perfectionist, she had to constantly remind herself of that. And rely on Deliveroo or Minecraft more than before. It was hard to let go of the fear of letting someone down and just trusting you can only do your best.
Remembering precious times
As Kristina drove with her husband one day and he talked about the future when their son turned 18, Kristina was sure she did not want to focus on that. Rather, she wanted to focus on the upcoming 6 years instead and all the things she would do with him. This crisis had the effect of making us stop and think about what matters to us, what we value, what we want to keep, and we what we want to lock away indefinitely. All these things that you keep delaying, they are not a choice, they are life today. These are precious times.
I was so happy Kristina could share these thoughts with us.
Kristina’s Lockdown List
- Book: Get out of my life, but first take me and Alex into town, A parent’s guide to a new teenager, by Anthony E. Wolf and Suzanne Franks
- Sport: Jogging
- Technology: WhatsApp and Video Consulting
- Lesson: Do It Now!
- Word: Exhausting (and Enlightening)