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On the COVID-19 Front Lines with the Emergency Department


What is it like being an emergency medicine specialist on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic? The Cedars-Sinai Newsroom reached out to some of our healthcare heroes to find out. 

COVID-19 Front Lines: Elizabeth Moye, MD

Physician Tells How She Copes with Long Days in the Emergency Department 

Elizabeth Moye, MD, an attending physician fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Cedars-Sinai Emergency Department, shared a window into her daily routine in a video diary.

In the video, Moye said she tries to keep home and work separate, both physically and mentally. She changes clothes between home and work to avoid bringing any pathogens from one environment to the other, and listens to music on her way to work to center herself for the tough day ahead. 

"I just get ready to be calm and focused and energetic and there for all the patients," Moye said.

She said the restorative moments on her shift come when the Emergency Department staff shares a meal, often supplied by generous donors from the community.

"We have a moment to sit together and eat something and both recharge our bodies, and also sort of recharge our minds, and commune for a second before we get back to work," she said.

Moye also shared a message about what everyone can do to help slow the spread of the virus – stay at home, self-isolate and only go out when you absolutely need to.

"I know it's boring, but you could be saving lives," she said.


COVID-19 Front Lines: Sam Torbati, MD

Emergency Department Chair Reflects on Teamwork and Community Support 

Sam Torbati, MD, co-chair and medical director of the Ruth and Harry Roman Emergency Department at Cedars-Sinai, shared his personal thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic in a video diary. 

Cedars-Sinai has moved quickly in response to the pandemic, Torbati said, tightening visitor policies and setting up triage tents in the parking lot so that patients who have COVID-19 symptoms may be screened quickly. And his team is ready for the anticipated surge of patients in the coming weeks.

"We know we're going to continue fighting this and it's going to get more and more challenging, and they're ready. They're ready to go," he said of the team.

For healthcare professionals like Torbati, the effort doesn't stop tat the office. He is careful about social distancing and sanitation at home. But he also stressed the importance of checking in with children and taking care of their emotional health as well.

"We need to continue to let our kids know that we're okay too, and continue to spend a lot of time with them and love them, because they really need it more than ever," he said.

While healthcare workers at Cedars-Sinai and elsewhere continue to battle COVID-19 both on the front lines at the hospital and at home with their own families, one constant source of support has been the community.

"We continue to receive daily emails and calls from local restaurants from our local community wanting to feed us and it's amazing," Torbati said. "It's great. It's it shows us incredible love. Nothing makes you feel as good as being fed."

COVID-19 Front Lines: Vanessa Beckett, MD

Emergency Physician Tells How Staff Support Each Other While Helping Patients 

Vanessa Beckett, MD, gave an intimate look into how the routines of many healthcare professionals changed almost overnight to include additional precautions against the spread of COVID-19.

Beckett, an attending physician in the Cedars-Sinai Emergency Department, spoke in a video diary about keeping her work shoes in her garage at home to prevent cross-contamination and undergoing daily temperature screenings before starting her shift.

One of the toughest challenges, Beckett said, has been knowing that new policies implemented in order to keep people safe and slow the spread of the virus often restrict visitors to COVID-19 patients.

"One of the hardest things is knowing that when I'm about to intubate a patient and put them on the ventilator that my voice and my words may be the last that they ever hear," she said.

But holding on to hope, and spreading that hope, is an equally key part of Beckett's day.

"It's important to remember that while there indeed is a high mortality rate, the vast majority of patients do well and the survival rate is much higher," she said. "And while we need to be cautious and responsible and safe, we also can't live in a complete state of panic or it will make everything worse."

Beckett and her colleagues extend messages of hope not only to patients, but to each other.

"When I see a fellow physician or PA or nurse or anyone hurting after a difficult case, we all try to comfort that person with words and hugs and snacks and just reminding each other constantly of how good we are and how hard we try and that we will always do our best no matter what, and that we're always there for each other," she said.

Beckett said that the one thing she wants people to know about the disease is that while many will come out on the other end of the pandemic unscathed, there are many more, including older adults and those with compromised immune systems, who have a harder time fighting the virus.

"We need to stay home so that they can fight harder for their lives. We need to wash our hands, we need to be responsible," she said. "Do it for them."