But as medical professionals, we also understand the fear that comes with encountering patients who have highly infectious diseases. Eric has been a frontline physician since day one of the Covid-19 pandemic and is now a physician working with patients with monkeypox. Tom has worked with patients in the intensive care unit during the Delta Covid-19 surge. We understand the real fear of contracting viruses at work, and — as a married couple — we recognize the concern about bringing disease home to loved ones.
No one goes into medicine to hurt patients — everyone in health care has decided to work in an industry that tries to improve the lives of others. Yet, it would be unconscionable to expect everyone in health care to put their own health at risk to help their patients. And coming off of the Covid-19 experience, there is justified mistrust and persistent fear among many health care personnel.
The way to ameliorate the situation at large — both to bolster the health and safety of health care workers and to address the stigmas associated with monkeypox — is twofold: education and proper safety policies including the provision of personal protective equipment.
Health care providers at all levels must be included in trainings about what monkeypox is, how it is spread (and how it isn’t) and mechanisms to keep themselves safe while caring for all patients — both those with monkeypox and those without. We must make it clear what safety procedures are necessary and ensure all providers have access to materials like PPE at all times.
We must allow each health care worker the chance to ask questions about how monkeypox impacts their job. As a medical community, we will more than likely identify lapses in our policies and ways to improve them.