The United States faces high levels of burnout among healthcare workers, which could lead to serious gaps in patient care, according to a new report from the US Surgeon General.
Health care worker burnout was a serious problem even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the stress caused by the ongoing pandemic has made matters worse, said Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
“The pandemic has accelerated the mental health and burnout crisis that now affects not just health workers, but the communities they serve,” Murthy said.
“Already, Americans are feeling the impact of healthcare system staffing shortages in hospitals, primary care clinics and public health departments. As burnout and the mental health crisis among workers conditions worsen, it will affect the public’s ability to get routine preventative care, emergency care and medical procedures It will be more difficult for our nation to ensure we are prepared for the next emergency public health. Health disparities will worsen as those who have historically been marginalized suffer more in a world where health care is scarce. Costs will continue to rise.”
Growing labor shortage
The report from the Surgeon General and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) noted that several studies have documented a growing shortage of healthcare workers. Federal researchers say the current healthcare system is short of 1.1 million registered nurses, and Mercer Health Care Market Analysis predicts a national shortage of more than three million low-wage healthcare workers within three years. These workers are primarily women of color and caregivers such as nursing home workers or nurse or physician assistants in other health care settings.
“The Association of American Medical Colleges has projected in 2020 that demand for physicians will continue to grow faster than supply, resulting in a shortage of 54,100 to 139,000 physicians by 2033, with the most alarming gaps in primary care and rural communities,” the report said. .
The report comes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to mutate into different variants, resulting in persistently high levels of infection. The relatively large number of previously infected and vaccinated Americans means that these infections are not as deadly as in previous waves, but hospital and health care workers continue to see a higher caseload due to infections in Classes.
The report calls for several measures to reduce the burdens on healthcare workers. These include:
- Protect the health, safety and well-being of all healthcare workers by ensuring they have the appropriate equipment and training and are protected from workplace violence.
- Eliminate punitive policies for seeking mental health and addictions care.
- Reduce administrative and document burdens and improve health information technology and payment models.
- Prioritize the well-being of health workers at the organizational level – this includes the provision of competitive salaries, paid sick and family leave, breaks, educational debt support and other measures to reduce the burden on health workers.
“Healthcare workers are the pillars of our collective health and well-being, and therefore should be valued and respected by their organizations and society,” the study states.