A new poll found that three in 10 frontline healthcare workers say they have considered giving up their jobs because of the pandemic. Burnout, trauma, and stress and some of the factors driving their discontent.
According to The Washington Post, about six in 10 said that stress from the pandemic negatively affected their mental health. The poll conducted by the Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, took place between February 11 and March 7, 2021.
Nurses, doctors, technicians and other frontline healthcare workers surveyed said that the impulse to quit was not only due to the dangers they faced fighting COVID-19 but also from the feelings of betrayal they felt from the public. The workers said they were frustrated by the support of the community on one hand and their refusal to wear masks or take necessary precautions on the other.
“You feel expendable,” said Dr. Sharon Griswold, an emergency medicine physician from Philadelphia. “You can’t help thinking about how this country sent us to the front lines with none of the equipment for the battle.”
The Post-KFF poll said that while the majority of healthcare workers felt respected by the public and patients they helped, six out of 10 said that Americans aren’t taking enough steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
According to the Post, the U.S. was facing a shortage of medical personnel before the pandemic, and further losses can have dire consequences on our healthcare system. Studies have predicted that 1 million nurses could retire by 2030 and we could also have a shortage of an estimated 130,000 doctors by then. Given the extensive and expensive years of training it takes to become a medical professional, this shortage could lead to pricy and less comprehensive healthcare in the future.
The pandemic has taken a terrible toll on the mental and physical health of medical professionals.
According to a survey published last year by the Physicians Foundation, 58% of doctors said they’ve experienced burnout. The review found that 50% of physicians “have experienced inappropriate anger, tearfulness or anxiety as a result of COVID-19’s effects on their practice or employment.”
Experts say that the pandemic has exacerbated a mental health crisis among medical workers that already existed. The suicide rate among doctors is double that of the general public. Unfortunately, doctors and nurses are not likely to seek mental health care because of the stigma attached. The Physicians Foundation survey found that only 13% of doctors went for help during the pandemic to deal with mental health issues.
Both Griswold and her husband, who is also an emergency physician, said they were experiencing symptoms of burnout during the pandemic and considered leaving their careers. Griswold’s husband took the plunge and gave his notice, according to the Post.
But Griswold says she cannot see giving up her identity as a healer, although the healthcare system is becomingly increasingly frustrating to deal with.
“Health care’s become a system run by insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, and private equity,” she said, per the Post. “There are so many patient decisions that aren’t up to doctors anymore, and it creates moral conflicts you wrestle with every day. It can be exhausting.”
Despite her anger with the system and all the deathbeds she has witnessed during the pandemic, Griswold says, “I’m not ready to give up yet.”
For doctors struggling with burnout and mental health issues, volunteer psychiatrists are offering free confidential peer support at the Physicians Support Line at 888-409-0141, seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. ET.
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