COVID contemplations - PPE (persona protection enforcement) (snippet)
Article: “Hospitals Muzzle Doctors and Nurses on PPE, COVID-19 Cases”
By Alicia Gallegos
Healthcare workers, including doctors, use personal protective equipment including masks, face-shields, and gowns to protect themselves against the potential danger of working directly with sick patients, particularly when it comes to COVID transmission. Some hospitals have created a “culture of silence” regarding talking about the status of the hospital, including such topics as the availability of such equipment, and even reprimanding, threatening, or firing those who say things to the media or post on social media regarding their concerns.2
Physicians have long known that the business and corporate side of medicine has devalued physicians and limited their ability to care for patients, and the COVID pandemic has just made this all the more apparent. One physician stated, “[The health system] is very protective of their public image.” and “In the past, people that have posted things that they don’t like get spoken to quickly and/or fired depending on what was written. I could only imagine that would be the situation regarding COVID-19. They are very strict.”2
The article discusses how hospitals have been trying to protect their persona, their image during COVID. There are obvious deficiencies that healthcare workers, including physicians, are attempting to point out, except they are being squashed by those with higher authority in these health systems. Maintaining a positive image is essential to the business of the hospital; appearing less capable, less powerful, and less trustworthy could potentially lead to patients going elsewhere for their care. Thus, these hospitals took measures to silence those who would break this image, this persona.
This is actually nothing new, but COVID and the strains it has caused to hospitals have brought much to light. Ironically, by being so strict and domineering, these hospitals are damaging their image as trustworthy and capable systems to deliver care to patients.
Personas are important and necessary for everyday social interactions: cooing and playing “peek-a-boo” is an appropriate persona when interacting with an infant but not at a business meeting, while showing off your laziness and bad habits may illustrate an appropriate persona with close friends but not when on you’re on a first date with a person you are trying to impress.
However, people sometimes get “stuck” on one persona and begin to over-identify with it. A law enforcement official may over-identify with the persona of delivering justice and correcting others, and when this persona is challenged, they may protect it by using more violence than necessary when dealing with someone who is being uncooperative. This person may even maintain this persona of rightness and justice at home by correcting or chastising people who live with them and get defensive when someone challenges this persona. Someone with a doctorate degree (medical, philosophy, etc.) may carry their “doctor” persona everywhere they go and introduce themselves as “My name is Dr. So-and-so” to everyone, regardless of the situation. In fact, they may flaunt their credentials even more when challenged in order to protect their persona.
Both of these cases illustrate how someone can over-identify with a particular persona and want to protect this persona, often without even realizing it. It is as if their entire self and life are only this persona and must be vigorously defended. This leads to an unhealthy imbalance.
Question / Exercises
Depending on or overidentifying with certain qualities or attributes is a barrier to knowing more about oneself because it highlights only certain aspects. Learning what the persona you try to protect and enforce the most is gives you hints for self-awareness and personal development. We profoundly like it when others praise or approve the qualities and attributes of the persona we portray, and we are immensely bothered if these qualities and attributes are criticized or disregarded.
What are your qualities and attributes that you enjoy being known for? How do you feel when others dismiss your having these qualities and attributes or dismiss these qualities and attributes in themselves?
Which of the following personas do you identify with most of the time and possibly over-identify to the point where it has become you?
I’m powerful and confident, so follow me!
I’m laid-back and agreeable, ah, let’s relax!
I’m someone with integrity and need to make things better.
I’m needed by others, so let me help you!
I’m a successful someone who gets things done!
I’m unique and special, different from everyone else!
I’m smart and know all about XYZ!
I’m dependable and you can count on me!
I’m all over the place enjoying stuff I want to experience! Yay!
What persona do you usually adapt when you are in a public place with people who you do know versus people you do not know? Understanding this takes time because the skill of self-observation is something that needs to be practiced, but ultimately being able to identify the ways you adopt your personas enables you to stop overidentifying with certain qualities and attributes. You are much more than that.
Gallegos A. Hospitals muzzle doctors and nurses on PPE, COVID-19 cases. Medscape website. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/927541. Updated March 25, 2020. Accessed June 13, 2020.