I'm a Pregnant Physician's Assistant and I'm Getting Online Hate for My Decision to Work in the ER
As a physician's assistant, I've had my fair share of interesting days. I work at a hospital in the Chicago suburbs, where I've been a PA in the emergency department for three years. In the past month, I've worked with a handful of COVID-19 patients who have come to the ER. Physician's assistants are able to test for and diagnose COVID-19, as well as manage any other treatment options an ER patient in critical condition might need.
I'm also 33 weeks pregnant with my first child, a boy, due June 9. As I excitedly prepare for his arrival, I've been documenting my pregnancy on Instagram for my friends and family. I always had a more private social media presence; only my friends and family follow me, so I don't expect my posts to get a lot of attention.
But that changed earlier this month when I shared a photo of myself holding my baby bump in PPE. In addition to the love I usually get from family and friends, I received dozens of comments from strangers about my pregnancy—specifically how unsafe I was being for working in a COVID-19 unit while pregnant.
I'm not sure where the photo was shared or who shared it, but somehow my photo started receiving comments from people I'd never heard of. They wrote, "You're putting your child at risk" and said that I "should not be proud of myself for working because it's making me unfit to be a mother." One commenter even wrote that it should never be about money or providing for your family if you're putting the life of your child at risk. While I know people can say all kinds of questionable things on social media, I never expected people to start attacking my photos.
Right now, the CDC says that it isn't known if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public, or if they're more likely to come down with serious illness as a result. Based on what is known, the CDC says “pregnant people seem to have the same risk as adults who are not pregnant." The advice given by the CDC, based on my understanding of its guidelines, is that it isn’t just pregnant women who should avoid exposure to sick people—this applies to everyone.
My ob-gyn knows that I am a PA working in the emergency department and advises I wear proper PPE to lower my risk of exposure. The FDA says that if properly garbed in PPE along with other protective measures (like hand-washing, for example), the potential of infection from one person to another is minimized.
I try to avoid working COVID-19 cases if possible, but because of the high volume of them at the moment, that is not always possible. My supervisor said it was up to me whether I continued working, and I didn't need any kind of clearance from management to continue doing my job.
If there were guidelines that stated that pregnant women should not work in health care positions, or if my ob-gyn advised against it, I would figure out a solution that didn't put me in the vicinity of COVID-19 patients. I would never jeopardize my baby's life, and trust me, I would much rather be at home, too. But with a baby on the way, I need to keep working to provide for my future family.
I want people to know that health care workers are just like the rest of us: we need to do our jobs and earn a living. Right now, that job includes taking care of COVID-19 patients. I shared a second Instagram to send that message to anyone commenting on my post, and I encourage them to think before they write. Some of us can’t use our paid time off right now or afford maternity leave. And while we'd like to be home with our families, we don’t have the luxury of staying home.
Health care workers need a way to stay positive and find the joy in their day-to-day, and my team and I are always trying to lift our spirits by making each other laugh. We take pictures, share jokes, and try to keep things light during this stressful time. I took this picture as a lighthearted way to document the memory of being pregnant while working, so it was so surprising to see how it could be twisted into something negative.
I hope that people understand that a lot of pregnant women need to keep going to work to provide for their families. I hope that people will think before they make nasty comments, because you don't know someone else's situation. And most of all, I hope that people understand that we would never want to put a baby in harm's way, and we're doing everything we can to stay safe.
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