In DepthCOVID-19

Pandemic scientists fight burnout

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Science  02 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6537, pp. 13-14
DOI: 10.1126/science.372.6537.13


From laboratory benches to intensive care units to scientific journals to government agencies, scientists fighting the coronavirus pandemic say they are burning out, 15 months after a report of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, upended their lives. The strains of remote teaching, caring for patients, reviewing a glut of papers, and researching SARS-CoV-2 at warp speed are just a few of the pressures taking an unprecedented toll, they say. In one survey of U.S. academics, 69% of respondents said they felt stressed, 68% felt fatigued, and 35% felt angry—more than double the 2019 numbers. "I'm empty," says Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician at the Medical University of South Carolina who has been seeing COVID-19 patients, helping manage her institution's vaccine rollout, meeting with vaccine-hesitant staff, applying for grant funding, speaking with the media, and testifying before Congress. But, "I don't feel like I can say no."

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