Health Workforce Safety

Information about risks to the health and well-being of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and strategies to protect the health workforce.

(03/03/21) Los Angeles County Finds Fewer Cases Among Health Care Workers as More Get Vaccinated
Just months from the first vaccinations, new infections of COVID-19 among health care workers have fallen dramatically in Los Angeles county. Long-term care facilities previously made up a quarter of all cases and have dropped substantially, a trend noticed nationwide among health care workers.

(02/24/21) Death, Through a Nurse’s Eyes
This video published in the Opinion section of The New York Times follows two nurses in an intensive care unit in Phoenix, Arizona to give perspective on working with the patients most sick with COVID-19, a year into the pandemic. While vaccinations are easing the pressure on nurses and other health care workers, trauma and grief are still widespread and will likely have lasting negative impacts.

(02/19/21) Feds OK’d Export of Millions of N95 Masks as U.S. Workers Cried for More
During a national shortage of N95 masks, the US government made an exception to an export ban on protective gear, allowing for the export of nearly 5 million masks per month. According to a FEMA letter obtained by KHN, FEMA issued a waiver to the protective gear ban near the end of Trump’s administration.

(02/17/21) Prominent Scientists Call on CDC to Better Protect Workers From COVID
This article from Kaiser Health News highlights key discussion points in a letter sent to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention by a group of research academics in an effort to help decrease the spread of the virus. Some high-profile signers include Rick Bright, an American immunologist; Michael Osterholm, an adviser to the Biden transition team; and Virginia Tech aerosol scientist Linsey Marr. The letter criticizes current guidelines and insists that more workers including EMTs, paramedics, and emergency room staff need access to top-rated N95 masks.

(02/16/21) An Urgent Mental Health Crisis: Health Workers Facing Immense Psychological Toll From Pandemic
This news article discusses some examples of the trauma experienced by front-line health care workers working through the pandemic. Experts believe many health care workers will experience trauma from their experiences throughout the pandemic beyond the end of the pandemic.

(02/14/21) Hospitals Face Severe Shortages as Pandemic Grinds Forward
This article discusses the challenges that hospitals are facing due to severe shortages in crucial medical supplies.

(02/09/21) NJ to Track Impact of the Pandemic on Medical Community Under New Greenstein Law
This article discusses a new law written by Senator Linda Greenstein. This law now requires health care facilities to report the number of health professionals who test positive for COVID-19 in an effort to understand the impact of the pandemic on the medical community.

(02/05/21) Workers With COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects Deserve Time Off to Recover
This Health Affairs article advocates for health care workers with COVID-19 vaccine side effects to receive time off without having to use sick time.

(02/03/2021) Joint Commission: Burned Out Healthcare Workers Need a Lifeline
The Joint Commission, a major health care advisory organization, have found significant burdens to health care workers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime examples included in their new report includes fear of getting sick, fear of bringing the virus home to families, and staffing shortages as major points of burden for health care workers.

(02/02/21) Frontline Nurses Talk with Psychologists in New Podcast on Coping with COVID-19 Related Trauma
This article discusses the mental stress and burnout that nurses are facing during the pandemic. The article highlights a podcast that was created to deliver advice, self-care tips, and strategies for overwhelmed nurses and health care workers.

(02/02/2021) Research Shows COVID-19 Community Exposure and Black Race as Greatest Risk Factors for Positive Antibody Tests in Health Care Workers
New research from Emory University finds that the largest risk to health care workers is not workplace exposure, but community exposure. Data from the study supports that personal protective equipment and safety protocols in the workplace are effective to protect health care workers.

(01/25/21) COVID-19 Surge Leaves Doctors, Nurses Reeling From Burnout
This Wall Street Journal article examines the effect the recent COVID-19 surge is having on health workers, leading to physical exhaustion and severe burnout.

(01/24/21) How We Can Keep Health Care Workers Safe
This CNN article examines the importance of keeping the health workforce safe during the pandemic and suggests 4 tasks that must be implemented in the next 5 years: infection prevention control, health workforce training, socioeconomic legal support, and constant monitoring to continuously make improvements.

(01/21/21) Program Prescribes Music Lessons to COVID-19 Health Care Workers
This article provides an overview of The Boston Music Teaching Project which enables COVID-19 health care workers to have private music lessons with music teachers in order to give them a bit of a respite from the stress of the pandemic.

(01/15/21) Geography Is Destiny: Dentists’ Access to COVID Shots Depends on Where They Live
Dentists are experiencing difficulty being vaccinated for COVID-19, according to this article from Kaiser Health News. In some states, dentists are lower on the priority list for receiving vaccines than other health care workers, even though dental work remains high risk for exposure to COVID-19.

(01/13/21) Therapists Donate Their Time to Counsel Distressed Health Care Workers
This article published in the Medical News & Perspectives section of JAMA discusses how therapists are donating time to help health care workers who are distressed following the high rates of death and severe illness experienced treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(01/10/21) At Elite Medical Centers, Even Workers Who Don’t Qualify Are Vaccinated
Nonclinical workers are being vaccinated at medical centers across the United States, even as front-line staff at many hospitals are still not vaccinated. Younger, healthy graduate students and health care administrators are reportedly receiving the vaccine ahead of older, patient-facing essential workers.

(01/10/21) Despite Having Intimate Knowledge of the Pain and Death Caused by the Coronavirus, a Surprising Number of US Healthcare Workers Are Refusing to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine
An article from Business Insider discussing the issue of health care workers in the United States who are declining to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Recent reporting has found as many as 80% of staff in some facilities are rejecting the vaccine, causing concern about the increased risk of the virus to health care providers and their patients.

(01/06/21) Lost on the Frontline: Explore the Database
The joint investigation from Kaiser Health News and The Guardian has identified at least 3,142 health care workers who have reportedly died of COVID-19 contracted while working. Their interactive database continues to be updated and verified for accuracy.

(01/05/21) COVID ‘Decimated Our Staff’ as the Pandemic Ravages Health Workers of Color
This article featured in Kaiser Health News covers the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had not only on Black and Latino patients but also the Black and Latino health care workers who treat these communities.

(01/05/21) Some Health Care Workers Say They Are ‘Forgotten’ in COVID-19 Vaccination Plans
Health care workers who work for staffing agencies are reporting inability to be vaccinated for COVID-19, even as they work across multiple facilities. Private medical practices are also reporting they are unable to secure vaccines for their providers due to lack of hospital affiliation.

(01/04/21) ‘Still Waiting for My Turn’: Primary Care Doctors Are Being Left Behind in The Vaccine Rollout
Primary care providers who are not affiliated with hospital systems are struggling to acquire vaccines, even as they treat patients infected with COVID-19. A recent survey found that more than three-quarters of primary care clinicians are unsure where or when they will be able to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

(01/04/21) 44 Kaiser Hospital Staff Members Infected in COVID-19 Outbreak, 1 Worker Dies
An outbreak of COVID-19 among staff members at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center in California has resulted in at least one death thus far. Officials believe a holiday-themed inflatable costume may be linked to accidental spread of the virus among staff.

(01/03/20) Large Numbers of Health Care and Frontline Workers are Refusing COVID-19 Vaccine
Many health care workers throughout the United States are reportedly declining to be vaccinated for COVID-19, with some places reporting more than 50% of workers refusing. Although currently not required in most States and federally, there is a chance vaccination will be mandated if sufficient numbers of vaccinations to prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19 do not occur.

(12/24/20) ‘It’s So Much Worse Than Before.’ Dread and Despair Haunt Nurses Inside LA’s ICUs
This story from NPR discusses how pandemic-related stress and burnout have led to some nurses leaving intensive care units and seeking work elsewhere. As health care workers leave the workforce, which already faces staffing shortages, the stress becomes more difficult for those that remain.

(12/23/20) Revealed: Guardian/KHN Find Nearly 3,000 US Health Workers Died of COVID
This article discusses new analysis by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News, finding the number of health care professional deaths from COVID-19 in the United States is approaching 3,000 people. The federal government currently does not have a system to track health care worker deaths across the nation.

(12/23/20) As the Terror of COVID Struck, Health Care Workers Struggled to Survive. Thousands Lost the Fight
This joint article from Kaiser Health News and The Guardian takes a look back at the toll the pandemic has taken in lives of health care workers from the beginning in April to the end of this year. New analysis finds many of those who died were minorities, skewed younger than the population at large, and had the highest levels of patient contact.

(12/21/20) A ‘Duty to Warn’: An ER Doctor, Shaped by War and Hardship, Chronicles the Searing Realities of COVID-19
This piece from STAT offers some perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic as detailed by an emergency room physician and combat veteran. The physician, Dr. Cleavon Gilman, has treated COVID-19-hospitalized patients for 10 months continuously, first volunteering in New York City in April, and has lost colleagues and mentors to both illness and suicide.

(12/21/20) US Healthcare Workers Protest Chaos in Hospitals’ Vaccine Rollout
Health care providers at multiple hospital systems throughout the United States are expressing frustration and protesting current vaccine distribution plans. Some hospitals have blamed poorly-functioning technology as a reason providers are unable to book appointments or have been overlooked for priority.

(12/19/20) As the Pandemic Rages, Demoralization Deflates Health Care Workers
This opinion piece published in STAT discusses some of the impacts of “moral injuries” to health care workers caused by the sustained surges in hospitalizations and other difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Conflicting experiences within their field and the general public are causing some workers increased stress and potentially driving them to leave health care.

(12/18/20) Hospitals Grow Tense Over Who Gets Vaccinated, How It’s Decided
As hospitals make decisions regarding vaccine prioritization, some have come under fire for prioritizing high-ranking providers who do not typically treat patients over providers working directly with patients.

(12/17/20) Some Health Care Workers Are Getting the Vaccine. Others Aren’t. Who Decides?
Health care workers across the United States are waiting for information on when they will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. With broad federal guidance, many states and hospital systems themselves have set more specific protocols, however smaller clinics and emergency responders are worried they will be forgotten.

(12/17/20) VA Health Care Workers Feeling Pandemic Burnout: ‘We Don’t See the Light at the End of the Tunnel’
This article from Federal News Network discusses frustration and burnout among health care providers at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Health care workers across the nation are leaving their positions amid sustained difficulties throughout the pandemic.

(12/16/20) Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic by Caring for Our Health Care Workforce As They Care for Our Patients
This research article published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlights the innovations and prioritizations made by Stanford Medicine in their earliest response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stanford Medicine made effective use of an Occupational Health Team to reduce workforce transmission of the virus, and offers multiple suggestions for improving workforce safety.

(12/15/20) Nursing, Doctor and Hospital Groups Urge Health Workers to Take COVID-19 Vaccine
National groups representing nurses, doctors, and hospitals are urging all health care providers to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as possible. The American Nurses Association, American Medical Association, and American Hospital Association are seeking to overcome opposition to a vaccine and help protect doctors, nurses, and patients.

(12/14/20) Hospitals Prepare to Vaccinate Workers: 6 Things to Know
This update from Becker’s Hospital Review covers the mass distribution and vaccination efforts for the first approved vaccine for COVID-19 in the United States. Long-term care facilities and hospitals prepare to vaccinate their highest risk staff and patients in an effort to bring an end to the pandemic.

(12/14/20) COVID ‘D-Day’: ICU Nurse in New York Among First in Country to Receive Vaccination
The first health care worker in the United States has received the first approved vaccine for COVID-19. This vaccination marks the beginning of the largest vaccination campaign in the history of the country.

(12/14/20) Hospitals Scramble to Prioritize COVID Vaccine for Their Workers. Who Gets Them First?
Although a vaccine for COVID-19 has been approved for use in the United States, the limited supply of the vaccine means hospitals and states have needed to set priorities for administration. These priorities often include those at highest risk, such as elderly individuals or those who treat the sickest patients with COVID-19..

(12/10/20) Health Care Professionals Can Decline COVID-19 Vaccine — for Now
Some health care professionals are concerned with the leading COVID-19 vaccines, with some surveys showing as many as one-third of nurses stating they would refuse to take a vaccine. This article discusses the history of mandatory vaccination and discusses how health care providers will be allowed to refuse the vaccine, at least for the time being.

(12/09/20) Keeping Transport, Environmental Services Staff Safe: 14 COVID-19 Strategies From Northwell Health
This article from Becker’s Hospital Review offers tips from Northwell Health, a major hospital system in New York, about protecting staff involved in patient transport and cleaning patients rooms from being infected with COVID-19.

(12/07/20) Think Health Care Workers Are Tested Often for the Coronavirus? Think Again
This article from NPR covers how many health care workers have not been tested for COVID-19 often, if at all, throughout the pandemic. Some providers find it difficult to see athletes and non-essential individuals find ease in testing while health care workers are often not tested at all.

(12/06/20) States Become Worker Safety Watchdogs As Pandemic Worsens
While typically worker protection laws are a federal manner, 14 states have taken charge of monitoring workplaces for worker safety issues in the COVID-19 pandemic. Some view the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration as being too lax on COVID-19-related issues in the workplace.

(12/01/20) Health Care Workers, Nursing Home Residents to Be Prioritized for COVID-19 Vaccine
This article from NPR covers the vote from a federal advisory committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that authorized the first doses of COVID-19 vaccination to go to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

(12/01/20) The PPE Crisis Didn’t Go Away: Across the US, Grassroots Supply Networks Are Trying to Fill the Void
This article from STAT highlights the continued struggles smaller health clinics across the United States are experiencing to acquire personal protective equipment. Large hospitals and health care systems are better able to find supply lines, leaving smaller facilities at significant disadvantage.

(11/30/20) OSHA Let Employers Decide Whether to Report Health Care Worker Deaths. Many Didn’t.
Analysis of health care worker deaths in the Lost on the Frontline series from Kaiser Health News and The Guardian found that more than one-third of a 240-person sample of health care workers who died of COVID-19 did not have their deaths reported to a state or federal agency by their employers. Employers are required to report these worker deaths to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, yet some employers claimed they could not prove COVID-19 infection occurred in the workplace and did not report the deaths.

(11/26/20) Amid COVID-19 Surge, Health Workers and Families Do Their Thanksgiving Best
This article covers the lengths health care workers and their families are going to maintain their health and wellbeing during Thanksgiving, as cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19 surge throughout the country.

(11/25/20) COVID-19 Has Claimed the Lives of 100,000 Long-Term Care Residents and Staff
This article from the Kaiser Family Foundation reports a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic for long-term care: more than 100,000 residents and staff from long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19.

(11/25/20) COVID Combat Fatigue: ‘I Would Come Home With Tears in My Eyes’
This piece in The New York Times covers the personal, lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health care workers who have been treating COVID-19 patients for months. Frontline health care workers live in constant fear of bringing the illness to their families at home, while experiencing the fatigue of unending demand for intensive care units.

(11/25/20) Beyond Burnout: This Surge of COVID-19 is Bringing Burnover
As a third wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is becoming apparent, health care workers are showing symptoms of sustained burnout, enough to be called “burnover” in this article. Health care workers across the United States are retiring earlier than anticipated, with health care workers struggling to continue in the pandemic.

(11/25/20) GMU’s COVID-19 Research Targets Frontline Health-care Workers
A pilot research program from George Mason University is focused on allowing health care workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 to return to work as quickly as possible. The program seeks to help create feelings of safety in the workplace and help frontline workers deal with pandemic-related stress and anxiety from the workplace.

(11/24/20) Factors That Shape Notification of Health Care Outbreaks of COVID-19
This blog post from Health Affairs covers the factors involved in notifying patients, health care workers, and the public about outbreaks of health care-associated infection of COVID-19. There lacks widely established standards on how to report these types of outbreaks.

(11/24/20) As COVID-19 Cases Surge, Health Care Workers Say PPE Is Still a Struggle
While the United States has been compiling personal protective equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile, health care workers across the country continue to report needing to reuse personal protective equipment and difficulty replenishing their stocks.

(11/24/20) COVID-19 Is Taking a Devastating Toll on Filipino American Nurses
This article covers the immense toll of COVID-19 deaths on nurses in the United States of Filipino descent, which make up 4% of the nursing population nationwide yet account for nearly one-third of nursing deaths from COVID-19.

(11/24/20) Some Health Care Workers Are Wary of Getting COVID-19 Vaccines
Most states have made plans to prioritize frontline health care workers for COVID-19 vaccination, however some of these providers have voiced concern over the safety and effectiveness of any COVID-19 vaccine. This article covers how the politicization and speed of the vaccine development process have impacted trust of health care workers.

(11/20/20) These Front-line Workers Could Have Retired. They Risked Their Lives Instead.
Part of the series Lost on the Frontline from Kaiser Health News and The Guardian, this article focuses on the lives of some of the health care workers who chose to continue treating patients in spite of nearing retirement, ultimately dying from COVID-19.

(11/18/20) A Nurse’s Plea: ‘I Wish That I Could Get People To See COVID Through My Eyes’
This story from NPR features some perspective from nurses treating patients with COVID-19 who feel there is a significant disconnect between the risk of infection and the behaviors of those in their communities. As hospitals fill to maximum capacity, challenges include meeting the needs of their patients while avoiding infection themselves.

(11/16/20) Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Previously Undiagnosed Health Care Workers in New Jersey, at the Onset of the US COVID-19 Pandemic
A new study conducted by researchers at Rutgers and affiliated hospitals in the journal BMC Infectious Disease has found that health care workers are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than non-health care workers, with nurses having the highest risk, especially in hospital settings.

(11/16/20) New MN Fund Will Help Families of Front-line Workers Killed by COVID
The newly launched Frontline Families Fund seeks to support families of the more than 1,400 health care workers who have died from COVID-19. The first phase of grants seeks to help fund the costs associated with the death of the worker, and a future phase of grants will be delivered on the basis of need to cover scholarships and other financial needs.

(11/13/20) ‘No One Is Listening to Us’
An article covering the impact of treating patients on health care workers across the United States. While hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics throughout the country continue to struggle to meet staffing needs and maintain personal protective equipment, health care workers feel their suffering is not being met with precautions by the general populace.

(11/12/20) North Dakota Nurses Call for Mask Mandate, Reject Policy Allowing COVID-19-positive Workers to Stay on Job
The North Dakota Nurses Association calling for a statewide mask mandate and criticizing the new policy implemented to allow asymptomatic COVID-19-positive health care providers to continue working in spite of their infection. North Dakota is currently implementing these regulations in line with the “crisis” guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(11/11/20) COVID-19 Risks and Impacts Among Health Care Workers by Race/Ethnicity
This issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzes the risks and impacts of COVID-19 on health care workers based on their race/ethnicity. Forty percent of health care workers are non-white in the United States, and people of color make up the majority of deaths among health care workers.

(11/06/20) ‘Suffocating’: Doctors Describe COVID-19 Challenges Faced by Indiana’s Healthcare Workers
This article highlights a recent COVID-19 update from both Indiana’s Governor and State Health Commissioner. The update focused on the burden COVID-19 is placing on the health workforce, with front-line health care workers reportedly experiencing burnout and staffing shortages.

(11/05/20) First COVID-19 Vaccine Doses to Go To Health Workers, Say CDC Advisers
A committee head for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that health care workers will be prioritized to receive the first doses of any effective COVID-19 vaccine. The order in which health care providers are granted access to an approved vaccine will depend on the approval process from the Food and Drug Administration itself.

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