On the evening of March 6, I took off my watch, wedding ring and a moonstone pendant – the jewelry I wear every day – and I haven’t put them back on since. Jewelry, especially rings ad watches, make it impossible to wash your hands properly and, since March 6, washing my hands even more carefully than usual has become very important.
I am typically a very good hand washer. I have always washed my hands carefully after each patient visit. At one point, one of my patients told the rest of a group of teenage patients that I had “OCD”. What was their rationale for this?
“Dr. Beck, at least every hour, you wash your hands, a lot – with the water running for a long time.”
Even the explanation that I am supposed to do this didn’t convince this diagnostician:
“People with a problem often find an excuse, Dr. Beck. You should think about what I said.”
I am certainly very conscious now of washing my hands, but I am also conscious of not wearing my wedding ring. My consciousness is heightened by the fact that my husband and I are sleeping in separate bedrooms and living 6 feet apart, in our own house.
Because I work in a hospital, I am at higher risk of contracting and carrying COVID-19. I do not want to get sick and I do not want my husband to get sick, but I would like to seem married again. I am working on a new unit and I wonder if people realize that I’m married, without a wedding ring.
Many doctors working in areas where the risk of infection is great are also isolating at home, or even away from families, and have stopped wearing rings and watches.
If you are feeling isolated from your usual support system, think what it is like for health care workers who are so isolated that they do not even wear the outward jewels and items that signal to the world that they have support systems.
They do not even wear the simple gold band that shows that they are loved.