Library of Congress gets health workers’ audio COVID diaries

The Library of Congress has acquired a digital archive of the real-time impressions of more than 200 frontline healthcare workers documenting the country’s descent into the coronavirus pandemic.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Library of Congress has acquired a digital archive of the real-time impressions of more than 200 frontline healthcare workers documenting the country’s descent into the coronavirus pandemic.

Calvin Lambert, a fetal medicine fellow at a Bronx hospital, recalls how a black pregnant woman who came for an exam “got angry and scared” even when he tried to give her a COVID-19 test to give. She thought the nasal swab itself would give her the virus.

Lambert, who is Black, said he had learned “to understand the deep distrust that the patient had and that many patients who are Black have of the medical system”.

The audio diaries of health workers like Lambert were collected by The Nocturnists, a medical storytelling project, for its “Stories from a Pandemic” podcast series, which ran in the spring of 2020, overwhelmed hospitals while medical workers dealt with their own stress, exhaustion and theirs Grief fought.

The digital archive is housed in the library’s American Folklife Center, which has built a collection of oral records from World War I, including testimonies from 9/11 first responders and survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Folklife Center director Elizabeth Peterson called the collection “a truly remarkable gift,” saying the audio medium and the intensity of the surroundings create a deeply intimate and sometimes exhausting portrait.

“You can hear the noises of the workplace, the exhaustion in their voices, and the great and small ways they try to deal with it and do their part,” she said.

Emily Silverman, a practicing internist and founder of The Nocturnists, said in a statement that she “couldn’t think of a better home for our audio library.”

“It captures the raw emotions of many healthcare workers in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and will serve as a historical document for future generations,” Silverman said.

The Nocturnists, who in addition to the podcasts also produce medical live storytelling shows, are planning to donate the recordings for their follow-up series “Stories from a Pandemic: Part 2”, which started on Tuesday.

A selection of audio clips published by the Library of Congress features a wide variety of medical professionals, from neurosurgeons in Los Angeles to medical students in Philadelphia.

Samuel Slavin, an internal medicine resident in Boston, reflected on the “unpredictable ways these patients get sick” and “how it weighs on us as doctors.”

Slavin sounded exhausted in his audio clip and remembered a colleague struggling with trembling hands and frayed nerves to finish a simple procedure. Slavin helped his colleague calm down and then stepped out to call his own parents who he feared were starting to show symptoms of COVID.

“That’s when I started to feel down. I could feel myself shaking and shaking and fiddling with my own phone, ”he said.

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