Doctor Inspires Colleagues with Song to Keep Trying During Covid

It’s rare when someone you don’t know invites you to step into their world and experience their raw truth. It happens most often through creative expression—books, poems, songs, and art.

Alyssa Burgart, MD, medical director of clinical ethics for Stanford Children’s Health and a pediatric anesthesiologist, recently bared her soul in a song about COVID-19 that she wrote for weary medical colleagues across her hospital and the nation. It’s reached nearly 24,000 views on Twitter in its first three weeks.

“There are not that many songs written from the perspective of a doctor or nurse. I wanted to speak up for my colleagues who are experiencing compassion fatigue,” says Dr. Burgart. “The more times we go up and down on this COVID-19 roller coaster, the harder it gets. I wrote it for the caregivers who are developing symptoms of PTSD, the ones who no longer have the strength to do their important work.”

Dr. Burgart shares her own sadness in the lyrics of her song, “We Keep Trying”: “Days like this I wonder why so many people have to die. It didn’t have to be like this … how do we keep trying?” She directly addresses how hearing people deny that COVID is real, then watching them pass away, fuels the fatigue.

“I have had to give more terrible news over Zoom than I ever could have imagined,” she says. “I can’t comfort families like I could before, when we would meet with them in the conference room with a box of tissues and share their pain.”

Her lyrics also reflect the shared exhaustion facing health care workers: “Lose a friend, losing heart, losing joy, and losing the spark, and I don’t have as much to give anymore.” She speaks of doctors and nurses experiencing PTSD symptoms due to the day in and day out of caring for people with COVID-19, and how the recent resurge is breaking spirits.

“California has good vaccination rates, and many people are committed to communal aims to lessen COVID cases, but it’s very different for my colleagues in ERs and ICUs across the country who are confronted by protesters or people refusing to wear masks,” she says. “I wrote this song especially for them.”

In preparation for posting, Dr. Burgart asked these colleagues to send photos of themselves showing how they are feeling right now. She was amazed by the response. Her song is accompanied by a montage of nurses and doctors with masked faces or with faces marked by wearing masks for many hours, bringing her lyrics to life.

Going live with “We Keep Trying” was one of the first times Dr. Burgart shared her songwriting publicly. Music is one way she maintains her strength these days. She’s a part of several groups within Stanford Medicine where physicians, nurses, and health care workers come together to share their music and writing. 

“Creative outlets like these are mental health boons for us all,” she says. “Medicine is a wonderful career, but we need to find ways to take care of ourselves.”

https://twitter.com/BurgartBioethix/status/1432215492458991617?s=20

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