The patient’s skin was covered in Nazi tattoos, including a large swastika on his chest. Critically ill by the time he arrived by ambulance, the patient asked Nichols not to let him die.
The compassion and commitment to his patients Nichols needs to do his job has waned during the pandemic, he told CNN’s John Berman in a Friday appearance on “New Day.”
While he said he’s grateful he got the wake-up call, he worries for the mental health of his fellow frontline workers who may not have confronted their pandemic-induced stress.
“I was struck by the impact that this had on me, that I never really faced that kind of hesitation before in my career,” he told CNN.
Working in one of the hardest-hit states
When previous ethical dilemmas with patients arose, Nichols said he reserved judgment and focused on treating the patient to the best of his ability.
“With this patient, I really didn’t have an opportunity to talk to them,” he said. “I was left only with the impact that that symbol had on me. It’s a symbol of hate. It challenged me a bit.”
He said he reacted with ambivalence partly due to the stress of the pandemic, which has put immense strain on health care workers and facilities. PPE shortages and low ICU capacity has made the challenge of keeping patients — and themselves — safe even more difficult for physicians like Nichols.
Though his interaction with the patient shook him, Nichols said he’s committed to providing the best care to any patient who needs it. His well of compassion hasn’t gone dry. But he hopes other health care workers examine the extreme stress they’ve been under since the pandemic began in March like he has.