A medical storytelling project, The Nocturnists, is donating over 700 audio clips from its Stories from a Pandemic audio series to the Library of Congress. The series originally ran in spring of last year and featured frontline medical workers chronicling their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Associated Press reported.
The library’s American Folklife Center, which houses oral histories dating back to World War I, will host the audio diaries. Elizabeth Peterson, the center’s director, said that the donation was a “remarkable gift.”
“You hear the sounds of the workplace, the exhaustion in their voices, and the big and small ways they try to cope and contribute,” she said.
One of the featured health care workers was Calvin Lambert, a fetal medicine fellow in a Bronx hospital. Lambert described one experience he had with a Black pregnant woman who “became irate” and fearful when he tried to administer a COVID-19 test because she believed it would cause her to contract the virus.
Lambert, who is Black as well, said the experience helped him grasp “the deep distrust that the patient had and that many patients who are Black have for the medical system.”
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Emily Silverman, a practicing internist and a founder of The Nocturnists, said in a statement that she “couldn’t imagine a better home for our audio library.”
“It captures the raw emotions of numerous health care workers in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic and will serve as a historical document for future generations,” Silverman said.
The Nocturnists, which produces live medical storytelling shows in addition to the podcasts, also plans to donate the recordings for its follow-up series, Stories from a Pandemic: Part 2, which launched Tuesday.
A sample of audio clips released by the Library of Congress contains a diverse array 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 way these patients go down fast” and “how this is weighing on us as doctors.”
Sounding exhausted in his audio clip, Slavin recalled seeing a colleague struggle to finish a simple procedure, with shaking hands and frayed nerves. Slavin helped his colleague calm down, then stepped out to call his own parents, whom he feared had started to display COVID symptoms.
“That was when I started to feel crushed. I could feel myself shaking and trembling and futzing with my own phone,” he said.
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