Health Workforce Safety and Resiliency

Information about pandemic risks to health care workers and the strategies being used to protect their physical and mental well-being, including burnout.

(07/21/21) As COVID-19 Continues, So Do Troubles for Nurses
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing nursing shortages across the nation. However, New Jersey nurse unions have expressed severe concerns as their members continue to face burnout amid steady COVID-19 related hospitalization rates. These nurse unions believe that suspended regulations which govern nurse staffing ratios and hospital scheduling contribute to these conditions

(7/7/2020) NY Health Care Workers Report Distress Related to COVID-19 Care
This article introduces a research article from General Hospital Psychiatry regarding COVID-19 related psychological distress of health care workers in New York City (NYC). The study that surveyed health workers in NYC in April 2020 reports the high rates of psychological symptoms among the responses: 37% for acute stress, 48% of depression, and 33% of anxiety. The study also reports that the most common coping behavior was physical activity and exercise (59%).

(7/6/2020) Kansas City-region ICU Nurse Talks COVID-19 Burnout As Missouri Sees Rise in Cases
This news clip summarizes interviews with a nurse caring for new COVID-19 patients at a hospital located in Kansas city, regarding burnout and fatigue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The quotes in the clip show how health workers have struggled and coped with the pandemic and the rise of the patients.

(07/01/21) Stress and Burnout Still Plague Front-line Health Care Workers As Pandemic Eases
Although much of the United States is returning to a pre-pandemic normal lifestyle, many physicians, nurses, and other health care workers are still experiencing significant stress and fatigue relating to their continued service. This article from The New York Times covers the difficulties and frustrations with health care workers as the rest of the nation seems to move on from COVID-19.

(06/30/21) Health Workforce in COVID-19 Action Series: Time to Protect. Invest. Together.
This article from the World Health Organization promotes the COVID-19 Action Series in the international Year of Health and Care Workers, emphasizing efforts to protect and invest in health care workers. These episodes are available to provide expert advice and guidance on how to improve the health workforce at an international scale.

(6/24/2021) COVID-19: Pandemic Increases PTSD, Suicidal Ideation in Health Care Workers
This article explains how front-line health care workers have been exposed to the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal ideation since the COVID-19 pandemic, as they have witnessed lots of their colleagues and patients died due to COVID-19. While symptoms of PTSD are not new to health care workers (e.g., data shows 16% among emergency physicians pre-pandemic), a recent survey shows that the COVID-19 pandemic would have heightened the PTSD rate to 39.3% on average for all types of health care workers and 49.5% for nonphysician health care workers.

(6/23/2021) The Doctors Are Not All Right
This article discusses the issue of physicians who committed suicide after experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the article, these physicians had no signs of mental disorders, and their stories reveal the existing gap in protecting health care workers in the health care system. For example, in the current health care system that penalizes workers whose mental health problems are disclosed, it is difficult for health care workers to open and discuss the problem. The article concludes with a couple of ongoing efforts and practical implications, such as legislation that supports suicide and burnout prevention training for health care workers.

(06/25/21) Half of Public Health Workers Experiencing Mental Health Strain: Study
A recent study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report has found that more than half of public health workers reported experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions. Symptoms were more prevalent among public health workers under the age of 29, those who spent most of their time in COVID-19 wards, and those who were unable to take time off of work.

(06/23/21) Mental Health and COVID-19: How the US Health Care System Fails Doctors
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the prevalence of mental health conditions among physicians. Although the pandemic has threatened the mental and emotional well-being of providers, physicians continue to avoid seeking mental health care for fear of losing their medical license. This article highlights the need for the implementation of improved strategies and resources for physicians to manage their mental well-being while also caring for patients.

(6/23/2021) Physician Work Hours Significantly Declined Since Start of COVID-19
This article summarizes a recent study published in JAMA Network Open that reports the gradual decline in physician work hours. According to the study, the mean weekly work hours of physicians was 50.8 in January 2019 but hit the lowest record in May 2020 at 47.5 hours per week. The study also reports that the proportion of physicians working full-time has declined from 84.2% to 80.7% after the pandemic.

(06/22/21) Silos Must Be Broken to Help Health Care Heroes Exhausted by Pandemic
The American Medical Association has joined the American Nurses Foundation, American Hospital Association, and Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare for the All In: Well-Being First for Healthcare campaign. More than 200 organizations and individuals have joined the effort to address the mental health crisis among health care workers that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(06/21/21) Around 10% of Health Care Workers Who Had COVID-19 Experienced Long-Term Symptoms: Study
The National Institute for Health has decided to invest more than $1 billion into research for long-term COVID-19 symptoms. This news has been announced after a study found that approximately 10% of health care workers experienced long-term COVID-19 symptoms that lasted at least 8 months after exposure. Some of the reported symptoms that disrupted their work, social, or home lives include loss of taste and/or smell, fatigue, and breathing problems.

(06/18/21) Despite Improving Conditions, COVID Will ‘Scar’ a Generation of Health Care Workers
Judy Woodruff and William Brangham from PBS News discuss the impact of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out on New York State as well as the lasting impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on health care workers. They also interview Dr. Craig Spencer, the director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University to gauge his perspective on the matter.

(06/15/21) Make Sure PPE Is Designed to Fit Everyone
A presentation held at the June 2021 American Medical Association (AMA) Special Meeting highlighted the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to be designed in an inclusive manner which fits all body types. This resolution comes as research cited in the presentation found that approximately 57% of women reported that improperly fitted PPE sometimes or significantly hampered work. AMA Board Member, Willie Underwood III, MD, MSc, MPH, also cited studies that reported health care workers developing ulcers or contracting COVID-19 due to improperly fitted masks.

(06/14/21) Doctors Risked Suicide, Miscarriage on Duty, Then COVID Arrived
The risks for providers, especially women, in providing health care have been well-known since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, however this Bloomberg Law article highlights the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated risks to providers, as well as discussing the stigma around mental health issues in physicians and potential changes to law to address these issues.

(06/09/21) Biden Administration Will Limit Mandatory COVID Workplace Safety Rules to Health Care Settings
The United States Labor Department has recently made the decision to specifically limit mandatory emergency COVID-19 workplace safety rules to the health care sector. Both unions and businesses are concerned about this pivotal change as they have anticipated a ruling that would broadly apply to all workplaces.

(06/09/21) Listen: Healing the Healers: An Advocate and a Psychiatrist on Clinicians’ Mental Health and Burnout
This First Opinion Podcast from STAT News discusses the mental health challenges that health care workers face while practicing medicine. Corey Feist, a mental health advocate and Wendy Dean, a Psychiatrist, also uncover how the recent COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these mental health challenges among health care workers.

(06/07/21) Physician Wellness After COVID-19: Steps to Getting Back to Normalcy
This article reports the mental health problems among healthcare workers. As a survey on healthcare workers from Mental Health America shows, more than 75% of the respondents reported stress, anxiety, burnout, or felt overwhelmed. Such a rampant mental health problem among healthcare workers is associated with the challenges such as developing new lifestyles, having kids at home, fighting misinformation, as well as anxiety and excessive work burden that they have faced since the beginning of the pandemic.

(06/02/21) CEO Coalition Readies to Take Action to Support Hospital Staff
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced new challenges and exacerbated existing issues in maintaining workforce safety in hospital systems. In an attempt to address these challenges, CEOs from 10 prominent hospital systems in the United States have announced the CEO Coalition’s Declaration of Principles to promote safer working environments, including emphasis on emotional and psychological safety, health justice, and physical safety of employees.

(05/25/21) Congress Needs to Pass the Dr. Lorna Breen Act to Support US Health Care Workers
This opinion piece from STAT highlights the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act which was introduced by a bipartisan group led by Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.). The purpose of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act is to prevent suicide and burnout among physicians as well as to improve the mental health of health care workers.

(05/24/21) Physicians Say COVID-19 Has Lowered Their Trust in Organizational Leadership and Healthcare at Large
This article introduces some evidence showing that physicians’ trust in the US healthcare system has declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. This tendency is associated with health insurance companies and government health agencies, while their trust in other health workers has increased.

(05/24/21) COVID-19 Infection Rate Among Dentists Remains Lower Than Other Health Professionals
A new study released by the American Dental Association finds that the rate of COVID-19 infection among dentists is lower than that of other health care professionals, and has consistently been lower throughout the pandemic. High rates of pre-appointment screening and enhanced safety procedures are credited with protecting dentists.

(05/24/21) Give Clinicians Time to Recover From the Pandemic
This article, published in the Personnel Policies section of the Harvard Business Review, advocates for an automatic policy to give clinicians working through the COVID-19 pandemic an opportunity to experience a recovery period, which could include the likes of temporary leaves of absence, relaxing workflow, reducing hours, role changes, or other changes meant to give clinicians a chance to heal some trauma.

(05/21/21) These Asian American Health Care Workers Are Fighting 2 Viruses: COVID and Hate
This article from CNN asks Asian American health care workers to discuss their experiences working through both the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the rise in targeted harassment and violence many Asian Americans are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.

(05/21/21) Interim Estimates of Vaccine Effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines Among Health Care Personnel — 33 U.S. Sites, January–March 2021
Newly published data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report finds the currently authorized mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 are highly effective in preventing symptomatic illness among health care providers. The study observed health care workers at 33 sites in 25 states.

(05/06/21) Nurse Burnout Remains a Serious Problem, Putting Patients in Danger, Experts Say
This NBC News article describes cases of nurse practitioners who recently experienced burnout or left their jobs with the frustration of lacking protective equipment from the medical center and challenging shift work during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the studies cited, the number of nurses searching for new jobs has risen four-fold during the pandemic, and about a quarter of health care workers showed signs of PTSD.

(05/04/21) Health System CEOs Form Coalition to Set New Safety Standards for U.S. Health Care Workers
The CEO Coalition has been created in an effort to set new safety standards for the nation’s health care workers. The formation of this group comes as the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the need to address systemic challenges faced by health care workers. The participants of the CEO Coalition include Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health and CEO of UCLA Hospital System, and nine other U.S. health system leaders. The CEO Coalition has since released a Declaration of Principles that innovatively redefined health workforce safety standards and included additional factors such as emotional and psychological well-being, health justice, and physical safety.

(05/04/21) Workforce Management Key to Nurse Mental Health, Patient Safety
A new study published in the American Journal of Critical Care has found that critical care nurses in poor physical and mental health have significantly more medical errors compared to healthier nurses. While this study was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the strain of the pandemic has led to concerns over medical errors throughout the pandemic from these critical care nurses and other health care providers.

(05/04/21) Health Care Workers Experience Increased Insomnia During the Pandemic
This article from Pharmacy Times discusses a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, which found significant increases in insomnia disorder among health care workers following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(05/04/21) Doctors With Long COVID-19 Share Their Struggles to Heal
This article from the Association of American Medical Colleges offers some examples of the impact of COVID-19 in the long-term on some health care providers. Long lasting COVID-19 symptoms on those who have otherwise recovered continue to be a concern for front-line health care workers.

(05/03/21) Health Care Workers Turn to Military Techniques to Deal With Trauma
This story from WBUR offers the perspective of Dr. Joshua Morganstein, the assistant director at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress in Maryland, a military veteran and researcher of trauma. Dr. Morganstein has advocated for utilizing some of the same techniques used to help active duty military personnel deal with trauma to health care workers working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

(04/29/21) COVID-19 Only Exacerbated a Longer Pattern of Health-care Worker Stress
This perspective piece from The Washington Post offers a view on the history of stress for health care workers, primarily physicians in hospital settings, both in the United States and the United Kingdom. While long hours and stress of constant emergencies have long been difficult issues in the field, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the issues.

(04/28/21) NMSU Study: COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in Health Care Workers Remains a Concern
This article covers a new study from New Mexico State University on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among health care workers throughout the world. The summarizing study found that more than one-fifth of health care workers involved in studies from more than a dozen countries were hesitant to be vaccinated. Male workers, older workers, and workers with doctoral or postgraduate education were most likely to accept vaccination.

(04/23/21) FDA Says Health Care Workers Should Stop Reusing N95 Masks
Health professionals were previously directed to properly clean, recycle, and reuse N95 masks in efforts to combat the shortage of personal protective equipment early in the pandemic. The Food and Drug Administration has since issued a statement that directs health care facilities and health care workers to transition back to the single use of N95 masks as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention believes there is now an adequate supply of N95 masks in the country. The recommendation is contingent on the assumption that facilities have access to and can confirm that they have a sufficient supply of N95 masks.

(04/22/21) Burned Out by the Pandemic, 3 in 10 Health-care Workers Consider Leaving the Profession
An article from The Washington Post covering issues with experienced health care providers leaving the profession as a result of COVID-19 pandemic-related burnout and trauma. Recent surveys have found many providers have considered retiring from medical practice in the past 12 months, with dissatisfaction with the response to the pandemic being a major factor.

(04/14/21) The Staggering Toll of COVID-19 on Health Care Workers
According to a report by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News, 3600 American health care workers have died in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The investigation called Lost on the Frontline, which started in April 2020, is ending this month.

(04/13/21) Sources of Healthcare Workers’ COVID-19 Infections and Related Safety Guidelines
This cross-sectional prospective research study assessed the effectiveness of workplace safety guidelines among health care workers. The study analyzed work-related exposure to COVID-19 and the source of infection along with the use of personal protective equipment. The study concluded that there was a high infection rate among health care workers even while following safety guidelines.

(04/08/21) Twelve Months of Trauma: More Than 3,600 US Health Workers Died in COVID’s First Year
The Lost on the Frontline project from Kaiser Health News and The Guardian has found more than 3,600 health care workers died during the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The investigation found that two-thirds of health care providers who died from COVID-19 were people of color, and often were lower-paid workers in roles such as support staff or nursing home workers.

(04/05/21) COVID-19 One Year Later: The Pandemic’s Impact on Physician Mental Health
Medical Economics interviews a doctor who is an expert on physician mental health. He states that the pandemic has not only had a huge effect on patients, but also on physician mental health.

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