What is it like to be a physician and a parent during the COVID-19 pandemic? Dr. Laura Bowshier sheds light on the commitment to her patients as well as to her family.
“It’s a privilege to be in a role to help in a time of crisis,” Bowshier said. “With kids, though, I feel the extra weight of responsibility in trying to keep myself healthy and safe.”
Bowshier and her husband, an anesthesiologist in Des Moines, have three children, ages 2-8. She is a family physician at MercyOne Waukee Family Medicine. She attended the University of Notre Dame for her undergraduate education. For medical school, she attended Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa. Bowshier’s residency training was at the Genesis Family Medicine Residency in Davenport.
“I like forming relationships with people and solving problems,” Bowshier said. “Medicine seemed like a good way to take my gifts and passions and combine them.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is a new problem Bowshier, along with her fellow colleagues and healthcare professionals, are trying to navigate. Bowshier receives regular updates from the Iowa Department of Public Health and from the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“I’m connected with physician colleagues across the country on social media and appreciate their information and insight as well,” Bowshier said.
In talking about COVID-19, Bowshier said, “It is challenging. There is much uncertainty around what is happening and what will happen.”
The Iowa Department of Public Health and Bowshier’s health system also regularly updates her with the latest recommendations on testing and counseling.
“We have been having meetings daily, as a staff, about the most current guidelines and best practices,” Bowshier said.
Currently, the recommendations are as follows: if someone has mild symptoms that can be managed at home, he or she is encouraged to stay isolated and manage symptoms as they arise. She mentioned that these recommendations may be obsolete in the coming days, as things are changing quickly.
“Our testing capacity is not yet able to allow testing for mild cases. If symptoms are moderate or severe, we help to decide what the next best step for them would be,” Bowshier said.
Recommendations for patient and healthcare provider’s safety is changing regularly.
“The biggest thing is we have now transitioned to full capability for telehealth visits at the clinic,” Bowshier said.
The recommendations from Dr. Bowshier are as follows:Stay home unless there is an urgent need to go out.Cover your cough with your elbow or upper arm.Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.Do not walk into a clinic or urgent care facility if you’re sick and concerned you may have COVID-19 without first calling ahead.Keep following the IDPH and the Centers for Disease Control for the most accurate information.
While at work, outside of scheduled sessions, Bowshier said there are more questions requiring thoughtful answers. There is an overall lack of time to take a quick mental break.
Bowshier requests that people extend patience and grace, both as friends and as patients, as it can help healthcare workers who are dealing with COVID-19.
“Everyone is doing their best and it is hard for all of us,” Bowshier said.
For Bowshier’s family, they are keeping their distance from others as much as possible. She feels that everyone, including the young and healthy people, need to do the same, so we don’t overwhelm the healthcare system.
“This is a health crisis like we have never seen before. Each of us is called to take responsibility,” Bowshier said.
She explained that COVID-19 is a contagious illness. It can spread easily and before a person shows symptoms.
“Our hospitals provide amazing care, but if the number of patients exceeds the number of hospital beds or ventilating machines, the situation becomes devastating quickly,” Bowshier said.
COVID-19 has increased the regular challenges of being a physician and a parent.
“As social distancing measures increase, the stress of figuring out childcare is always in the back of my mind,” Bowshier said before area schools decided to follow Gov. Kim Reynolds’ recommendation to close at least through April 13. “We are trying to have plans, and backup plans, and backup-backup plans for childcare should schools close or should job responsibilities increase.”
Right now, with this virus, Bowshier is most worried about her parents, grandparents, and friends on the front lines of healthcare than she is for children at this time.
“In medicine, you see tragic things happen to wonderful people,” Bowshier said.
So, she tries regularly to be grateful for the people she loves, as she finds this to be more productive than worrying.
To help keep her family healthy when Bowshier gets home from work, she does the same routine. She takes off her watch and wipes it, along with her cellphone, with an alcohol swab. She then washes her hands to her elbows before touching anything around their house. Lastly, she changes into fresh clothes before jumping into their evening routine.
“I’m always pretty careful. I have a work bag and work shoes that never leave our mudroom within the house,” Bowshier said.
Bowshier shared how she is talking to her children about COVID-19
“I’m trying to explain realistically what the virus is, who we are helping with these changes in our daily lives and why it is extra important to do the things we usually ask them to do anyway…wash your hands, cover your cough, etc.”
Bowshier feels that letting kids know we don’t know what will happen, gives permission for fear. She then feels it’s important to model staying calm, controlling what we can, and being grateful. She hopes this will set a positive tone for their household.