Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare
Health care workers have sacrificed so much to care for our nation. It’s National Gratitude Month – a great reminder to say THANK YOU to a health care worker you know.
Our health depends on the well-being of our health workforce. Let’s take care of those who are always there to care for us.
The realities of our health care system are driving many health workers to burnout. They are at an increased risk for mental health challenges and choosing to leave the health workforce early. They work in distressing environments that strain their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. This will make it harder for patients to get care when they need it.
The U.S. Surgeon General – Dr. Vivek Murthy – has issued an advisory on health care worker burnout. This is an important read (76 pages). Please take time to review everything on this landing page as well. There’s a plethora of resources found within the entire page!
Here are some key takeaways from Dr. Murthy’s advisory:
- Workplace systems cause burnout among health workers. There are a range of societal, cultural, structural, and organizational factors that contribute to burnout among health workers. Some examples include: excessive workloads, administrative burdens, limited say in scheduling, and lack of organizational support.
- Physician demand will continue to grow faster than supply, leading to a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033. The most alarming gaps are expected in primary care and rural communities.
- Burnout, resource shortages, and high risk for severe COVID-19 infections have unevenly impacted women and health workers of color. This is due to pre-existing inequities around social determinants of health, exacerbated by the pandemic.
- If not addressed, the health worker burnout crisis will make it harder for patients to get care when they need it, cause health costs to rise, hinder our ability to prepare for the next public health emergency, and worsen health disparities.
“The stakes are high. If we fail to act, we will place our nation’s health at increasing risk. Already, Americans are feeling the impact of staffing shortages across the health system in hospitals, primary care clinics, and public health departments. As the burnout and mental health crisis among health workers worsens, this will affect the public’s ability to get routine preventive care, emergency care, and medical procedures. It will make it harder for our nation to ensure we are ready for the next public health emergency. Health disparities will worsen as those who have always been marginalized suffer more in a world where care is scarce. Costs will continue to rise. Equally as important, we will send a message to millions of health workers and trainees that their suffering does not matter.
Instead, we can choose to make this moment a collective commitment to care for those who have always cared for us. When health workers look ahead, they should see a future where their dedication isn’t taken for granted, and where their health, safety, and well-being is as much a priority as the well-being of the people and communities in their care.
Addressing health worker burnout is about more than health. It’s about reflecting the deeper values that we aspire to as a society—values that guide us to look out for one another and to support those who are seeking to do the same. Health workers have had our backs during the most difficult moments of the pandemic. It’s time for us to have theirs.”