'A joy to come to work': Northern Virginia doctor grateful to treat coronavirus patients

Imagine if your job was to treat people with a disease that’s highly contagious, hidden, and deadly – and still being grateful to go to work.

“I think it’s actually a privilege to work at this time,” Dr. Raj Chand said Wednesday afternoon outside of Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Northern Virginia. Although that’s not to say working with COVID-19 patients day after day is easy. “Taking care of patients in the era of COVID is harder physically because of the number of steps involved.”

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For instance, Chand used to be able to walk into a room and talk to a patient face-to-face, but not anymore. A 3M reusable respirator and face shield, along with a gown and gloves, is now his standard COVID clothing. When he’s working with the sickest of the sick, he wears what’s called a PAPR device, which stands for powered air-purifying respirator.

“With this you can be taking care of a COVID patient for a pretty prolonged period of time,” he said from underneath the large hood, voice muffled.

Plus, because the rooms where doctors and nurses treat COVID patients can get especially loud, they’re now using two-way walkie talkies with an earpiece, just like a staff might do at a restaurant.

“The entire team is able to hear what I’m saying and make sure that the communication is crystal clear,” Chand added.

It all takes an emotional toll as well. Chand has a wife and two kids, and said for a while, he was too scared to hug them after work. Now he changes clothes at the hospital, rinses off as soon as he gets home, and the hugs are back.

“This is the new normal,” he explained. “We can’t change what we’re doing at home because of this.”

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So big picture, you’ve got a 43-year-old dad and doctor who – like so many other healthcare workers around the globe – is not only getting the job done, he’s doing it with a smile.

“We train for moments like these in emergency medicine,” Chand said, “and when you work with a team as awesome as our team at Fair Oaks, it’s actually a joy to come to work.”