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Health Care Workers Are On The Frontlines Of Treating Coronavirus

NOEL KING, HOST:

This week on the show, we're going to be hearing from health care workers - doctors, nurses and other people who train for the worst, which is now arriving.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Cecelia Schmalbach is a surgeon at Temple University.

CECELIA SCHMALBACH: Really, overnight, within 24 hours, the manner in which I deliver care to my patients has changed dramatically.

INSKEEP: Yeah, she usually focuses on head and neck cancer. Now her nonessential surgeries are canceled. Her appointments with patients are over the phone.

SCHMALBACH: And that's really a shift in paradigm, but one that we absolutely need to practice during this pandemic.

KING: This is all being done to free up hospital space and resources for COVID-19 patients. Now, Dr. Schmalbach is used to tough situations. She served in the Air Force. She was deployed in Afghanistan. Now she's facing an extreme situation here at home.

SCHMALBACH: I never thought that here in the United States I would drive to work and be thinking about protective gear, our gloves and our goggles and our masks. And it's a very sincere and legitimate concern. You know, do we have enough on hand? And that's not just a question at my institution. That is a question that every single hospital is facing.

INSKEEP: She says she takes hope and help where she can. She got advice from a doctor in her field from Wuhan, the city in China where the outbreak began. That doctor shared tips for how to perform a risky procedure to help a patient's breathing.

SCHMALBACH: It was really amazing, and it's what gives me hope, and it's what allows me to say with confidence we will get through this. It's not going to be easy. Things will be different, but we will absolutely get through it because of that willing to partnership with our community and across the country and the globe.

KING: Dr. Schmalbach says her focus at the moment, like many health care professionals, is on simply getting through it. And she says it is a marathon, not a sprint.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.