Look closely, through the face shield, over the mask. You’ll see it.
“Walk around the hospital, you can see the fatigue in people’s eyes,” said Dr. Roy Werner, director of the emergency department at Roseland Community Hospital on the far South Side. “We have an entire staff of physicians, nurses, tech staff, housekeepers, working harder than they have ever had to work.”
Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, with a vaccine tantalizingly near but still not in hand, the relentlessness of fighting the virus—the endless stream of patients, the round-the-clock-shifts, the deaths, the need to plug holes in the schedule created by colleagues who are themselves sick—is grinding down hospital workers.
“You can’t take vacation, you can’t escape at work,” said Dr. Meeta Shah, an emergency room physician at Rush University Medical Center on the near West Side. “Sometimes you can’t escape in your sleep. There is an overall fatigue, not being able to get the break we need. That can be exhausting.”
The Chicago Medical Society polled its 17,000 members: two-thirds report symptoms of burn-out: physical and mental exhaustion, listlessness. emotional numbness. And that was over the summer.
“It’s worse now, because everybody is busy all the time,” said Dr. Vishnu Chundi, chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force for the CMS. “There’s no let up.”
He said that not only are doctors overworked, but more are coping with their own post-COVID symptoms like shortness of breath and chronic pain.
“Now we’re seeing more of the staff getting it,” Chundi said. “They not having enough time to recover from COVID — the fatigue, the cough. They’re coming in ragged around the edges.”
When they do, they’re facing patient death on a scale they are simply not used to.
“It’s horrible,” Chundi said. “I’ve never seen so many people die. It’s just a number until you see it happen in front of you. Then it’s, ‘Oh my God—This is carnage.’”
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