Coronavirus News: Staten Island doctor details struggle of connecting with patients while wearing PPE

NEW YORK (WABC) -- One doctor on Staten Island is not only working around the clock to save lives, but she is also trying to connect with her patients like she did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the gloves that go on top of the gloves, and the gowns that go on top of scrubs and after the face shields and masks in hospitals that get so crowded they have converted waiting rooms into a triage center, some medicine just gets lost.

"You're behind the mask and behind the shield, and you're behind the goggles and gown, and it already creates this level of distance.," said Dr. Nicole Berwald.

Dr. Berwald runs Staten Island University Medical Center's emergency room, and she says it is impossible to talk with patients the way she could before all this.
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Jim Dolan has the latest on one Staten Island doctor's struggle to connect with her patients like she did before the COVID-19 pandemic.



"You feel in some ways that you're taking the human part out of medicine," Dr. Berwald says.

And yet, doctors are still saving lives. It is, necessarily, though, a more sterile relationship.

"What you can't do is put your hand on the shoulder and invite the family in - that's really hard, because you want the families to have that experience with their loved one," Dr. Berwald added.

While the crush of new coronavirus patients has eased just a bit on Staten Island, Dr. Berwald warned of letting up on social distancing.

"I have a personal concern that we're going to ease that up too early and we'll see another spike of severe patients coming through the doors," Dr. Berwald said.

She and her husband, who is also a doctor, have two children.

She says homeschooling has been difficult, but they are focused on their work.

"It's hard. You try to balance all of these things, especially with a two physician family, where we do balance that time," Dr. Berwald said. "It is a lot of hours worked at home and juggling things between the two people who both have to take care of patients right now, but feel dedicated to what we signed up for."

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