Healthcare professionals find strength in faith

By Tom Tracy

Catholic News Service

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNS) – The tsunami of fear around the COVID-19 pandemic and the way it caught the world's medical community – often lacking resources, testing and protective equipment – is now testing the faith of U.S. medical professionals.

"Priorities have changed significantly since the pandemic," said Dr. Greg Burke, a Pennsylvania-based physician of internal medicine and co-chair of Catholic Medical Association's Ethics Committee.

Demonstrating a sense of calm is critical for healthcare professionals who are rightly viewed as being willing to take risks to maintain the health of all, Burke told Catholic News Service, adding that confusion and misinformation are to be expected during a period of significant anxiety. But healthcare professionals must stay informed on the most relevant clinical facts.

"Also, a great degree of flexibility in work is now required: Can patients be managed by phone or telehealth? What meetings are essential? Will I be redeployed to a different unit or care setting?" Burke said. "Professionalism, particularly in our Catholic tradition, requires that we make our skills available
where most needed," he added.

Father Tad Pacholczyk, who is a neuroscientist and an ethicist and director of education on the staff of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said COVID-19's sheer novelty and speed to transmission has been a significant stressor for the medical community.

"It quickly acquired a larger-than-life quality, even as debate continued about how virulent it really was and what steps might constitute a proportionate response," he told CNS, adding that the public's panic and fear are palpable.

Actions and decisions motivated by fear, however, usually don't result in the best outcomes, he added.

"Our Lord himself counsels us never to give in to fear. The Old and New Testaments remind us at least 365 times to ‘be not afraid,’" Father Pacholczyk said. "Through prayer, and through our camaraderie with God and one another, Christians can offer ... a deeper trust and hope that can overcome fear's hegemony."