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Why US healthcare workers are quitting in droves: About one in five have left medicine since the pandemic started

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  1. skybrian
    From the article: [...] [...] [...] [...] (The statistic in the headline comes from this article.)

    From the article:

    Stories about these departures have been trickling out, but they might portend a bigger exodus. Morning Consult, in the same survey, found that 31 percent of the remaining health-care workers have considered leaving their employer, while the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found that 66 percent of acute and critical-care nurses have thought about quitting nursing entirely. “We’ve never seen numbers like that before,” Bettencourt told me. Normally, she said, only 20 percent would even consider leaving their institution, let alone the entire profession.


    Several health-care workers told me that, amid the most grueling working conditions of their careers, their hospitals cut salaries, reduced benefits, and canceled raises; forced staff to work more shifts with longer hours; offered trite wellness tips, such as keeping gratitude journals, while denying paid time off or reduced hours; failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment; and downplayed the severity of their experiences.

    The American Hospital Association, which represents hospital administrators, turned down my interview request; instead, they sent me links to a letter that criticized anticompetitive pricing from travel-nursing agencies and to a report showing that staff shortages have cost hospitals $24 billion over the course of the pandemic. But from the perspective of health-care workers, those financial problems look at least partly self-inflicted: Many workers left because they were poorly treated or compensated, forcing hospitals to hire travel nurses at greater cost. Those nurses then stoke resentment among full-time staff who are paid substantially less but are often asked to care for the sickest patients. And in some farcical situations, “hospitals hired their own staff back as travel nurses and paid them higher rates,” Bettencourt said.


    Between 35 and 54 percent of American nurses and physicians were already feeling burned out before the pandemic. During it, many have taken stock of their difficult working conditions and inadequate pay and decided that, instead of being resigned, they will simply resign.


    Some health systems are starting to offer retention bonuses, long-overdue raises, or hazard pay. And the next generation of health-care workers doesn’t seem to be deterred. Applications to medical and nursing schools have risen during the pandemic. “That workforce is apparently seeing the best of us, and maybe their vision and energy is what we need to make us whole again,” Esther Choo told me.


    Hospitals are also being flooded by people who don’t have COVID but who delayed care for other conditions and are now in terrible shape. “People are coming in with liver failure, renal failure, and heart attacks they sat on for weeks,” Durham told me. “Even if you take COVID out of the equation, the place is a mess with sick patients.” This pattern has persisted throughout the pandemic, trapping health-care workers in a continuous, nearly two-year-long peak of either COVID or catch-up care. “It doesn’t feel great between surges,” Choo told me. “Something always replaces COVID.”

    (The statistic in the headline comes from this article.)

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