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Michael Dowling: To health care workers, thank you

Health care workers on the front lines have

Health care workers on the front lines have sacrificed their well-being to treat those who have been infected by the coronavirus. Credit: Getty Images / shapecharge

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For as long as medicine has been around, it’s been known that you health care workers are a special breed — working on the front lines, sometimes during chaotic moments, sometimes dealing with end-of-life situations and sometimes contributing to the most joyful of occasions.

What has transpired over the past several weeks, though, has been extraordinary, a remarkable showing of true grit and selflessness usually credited to emergency workers and our armed forces. You have entered unthinkable situations each day, facing the virus with no known treatment or vaccine with the same rigor and hope as ever before.

You are our heroes.

The coronavirus, or COVID-19, halted life as we know it for most people here in the United States and across the world. But not for you. Not for the tireless clinicians, security workers, revenue cycle and supply chain employees, therapists and many more. It’s because of you that we are able to navigate these uncharted times with confidence, moving toward the hopefully soon end to the unwelcomed outbreak. And it’s because of you that we are able to spend our lives with those who matter most during this troubling time.

Simply put: You’ve got this.

Since the outbreak began in the United States, we’ve heard countless accounts of health care workers stepping up to contribute. Those of you on the front lines have sacrificed your well-being to treat those who have been infected.

Doctors, nurses and physician assistants treating COVID-19 patients, you have removed yourselves from your families, in some cases your young children, to eliminate the risk of exposure — all while enduring long hours in the most stressful circumstances.

Some clinicians nationwide have contemplated surrendering themselves to contracting COVID-19, so they can become immune and eventually be a solution to the shortage of personal protective equipment.

Closer to home in New York — the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States — Northwell Health and many other health care organizations have witnessed the same courage and toughness we are used to. Our clinicians have banded together, learning on the fly to adjust to the evolving situation. Overnight in late March, more than 1,000 of the state’s recently retired health care workers responded to the crisis and returned to work.

Astonishing commitments like these are the same kinds of efforts we are used to seeing and hearing about in health care. It’s a calling. A way of life. It’s who you are.

Your communities depend on you now more than ever. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced us to become innovative and creative, even if we don’t like it. Working in health care means being fluid and able to adapt to rapidly moving targets. This situation is no different. In fact, the targets have been much quicker and more agile. And as you’ve continued to stomach the worst infectious disease outbreak seen in generations, we are here for you, too, to lend a hand when you need a break.

With the next phase of the coronavirus upon us, we have to remain calm and realistic about our expectations. We have to stay positive and optimistic. We can beat this virus, thanks to your unwavering dedication.

Special people do special things. And I am forever grateful for everything you have done and continue to do.

Michael Dowling is president and chief executive of Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider and private employer.

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