In March 2020, SARS-CoV-2, also known as Coronavirus 19, entered our lives and changed us all forever. Both small and large gatherings ended, and our hospital division stopped having in-person meetings. Suddenly, teleconferences became the way to communicate with each other. While meeting attendance increased because it was easy to log on from home, seeing each other was lost physically.  

I, like many others around me, felt the weight of this seclusion coupled with the anxiety about working in the hospital and being exposed to Covid-19. The information we were learning about this new virus quickly changed, leading to frequent group meetings to discuss the developing hospital protocols.  Even in a digital space, the mood was anxious, frustrated, and somber.

Henry Matisse said “creativity takes courage” and I believe that courage can bring people together. While reflecting on my emotions at the end of one meeting, I decided to tell my colleagues how I felt about them. I opened myself up and shared my fears and thanked them for their dedication in working together through this pandemic. 

These were the people who understood our current experience better than anyone else. They were my work family and I was better because of them. They were my people. We all know that being vulnerable is not always easy, but for some reason the words just came out from my heart. It was one of those moments when you simply act in the moment without caring how it will sound. Maybe because my outpouring of emotions was so honest and unexpected, the virtual chat box was filled with heart emojis and tears. People resonate with true feelings especially when they are feeling them too. 

As we all know, there is always one joker in each group who makes us laugh with their sarcastic humor. In our group, a good friend reported that he “needed some insulin to counter all these sweet feelings!”

And there it was born: the challenge. 

I told them I was going to read a poem at the next meeting and I did just that. I wrote a verse about a “man from Nantucket who had an N95 and couldn’t chuck it” and recited it at the end of our next virtual meeting. I could not have imagined the reaction! All of a sudden, the anxiety and frustration were wiped away and the meeting was filled with lightness and laughter. 

I realized we needed to hold on to this feeling and keep it going, so I “tagged” a colleague and asked her to write the next verse in the poem. At the end of our next COVID-related meeting, she read my verse and then added on hers. There were joyful claps and more smile emojis in the chat box. In this manner the natural evolution of this accidental team-building experience continued. Each week we excitedly awaited the end of the meeting so that we could hear what the next verse would bring. The personalities and interests of each group member were reflected in their own verse. 

I am sure nobody ever thought a group of pediatricians would write a poem about the Tiger King, politics, and the toilet paper shortage!
As I reflected on the creation of this poem, I came to a few conclusions. This poem represented more than just a piece of writing. This poem was born out of a need: a need for a group of physicians to bond; a need for a group of physicians to have a safe outlet to express their feelings and laugh together; a need for a group of physicians to find moments of joy during a mentally and physically challenging time. All these needs led us to create a memory which made us stronger, braver, and more connected than before.

Reina Patel, DO is a practicing pediatric hospitalist in Phoenix, Arizona. She enjoys writing, reading,
teaching yoga to children, and responding to her kids in song, making them laugh and roll their eyes.