In 2017, I wrote a blog about Burnout Syndrome. Wow! What we didn’t know back then seems to be eons ago. Now, we are in another pandemic surge, this one worse than the first. And, there is no end in sight with Winter just around the corner.
Healthcare workers are angry, disappointed, and leaving in big numbers. Who will be here to turn off the lights?
Staffing shortages predicted for the last 10 years have become a fact. During the “hero” surge (that’s the first one of 2020), everyone pitched in and went above and beyond their normal duties. This time, not so much.
We are finding difficulty, as many others are, in recruiting, hiring, and paying healthcare workers to serve the unvaccinated who are sick. As the antibodies wane from the vaccines and everyone is waiting for a booster, healthcare workers who came out of retirement will not return to the bedside for sick patients. Some will continue to do vaccinations or testing but will not enter the halls of ICU’s and ER’s for any amount of pay. That does not bode well for patient care or having available care. We have become desensitized to the fact that our children now have covid in the schools, that business (healthcare and otherwise) must continue if we plan to survive, and that even being vaccinated is not safe anymore. We became lost in the politics of the disease.
As we push ourselves and the healthcare system to the brink of exhaustion without a second thought, our limits for physical and emotional exertion begin to collapse. The average age of the radiologic technologist workforce is 42 years old with 36% males and 60% females. The average age of a nurse is 47.9 with almost half (47.5%) over 50 years of age. Only 12% of the RN’s are male. This tells us that even if healthcare was a second career choice, that the workforce is mostly Generation X and Boomers. That denotes a value system just from the classification. Generation X values the work-life balance and the Boomers are loyal and have a strong work ethic. Figure in the small number of millennials, with different cultures and the workplace becomes a seething cauldron of emotions driving the attitudes.
The statistics for physicians follow the same route. Practicing physicians over the age of 60 stand at 29.3%. For emergency room physicians 65% are below the age of 55. That is a good statistic as data shows that younger physicians have a better patient survival rate than older physicians. This has been reported from Medicare data.
Are healthcare workers staying home? YES!
Are healthcare workers retiring? YES!
Are current conditions going to continue to drive these factors? YES!
Will the system collapse? NO! But the landscape of delivery will be changed forever.