DEDHAM, Mass. — While many of us are getting vaccinated and venturing outside, healthcare professionals are carrying the scars from a traumatic year at work.
The Washington Post published startling results from a survey of 1,327 U.S. healthcare workers, taken between Feb. 11 and Mar. 7. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, “roughly three in 10 healthcare workers have weighed leaving their profession. More than half are burned out, and about six in 10 say stress from the pandemic has harmed their mental health.”
The survey paints a stark picture of the current healthcare climate, with a lot of workers feeling tired, stressed, and in some cases, pushed beyond the breaking point.
“[The numbers do] surprise me a little bit,” said Dr. John Broach, Director of Emergency Medical Services and Disaster Management at UMass Memorial Medical Center.
As medical director of the DCU Center field hospital in Worcester, Broach witnessed firsthand the toll the pandemic can take on frontline healthcare workers.
“Just the day-to-day grind of the PPE, making sure that you’re safe, making sure that your family is safe, it has worn on people,” Broach said.
“Yeah, the cracks are beginning to show,” said Katie Murphy, President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
With 23,000 members, the MNA is one of the largest healthcare unions in the state.
“Certainly over the past 13 months, there have been times when people have… told me they can’t put one foot in front of the other to get to the walkway to get to the hospital,” Murphy said.
Burnout was a concern even before the pandemic. In 2019, Boston 25 reported on a study that warned of “physician burnout” due to patient overload and endless paperwork.
But medical professionals worry COVID-19 may have pushed some workers beyond the breaking point.
“In some ways, just acknowledging it’s an issue and acknowledging that we need to take care of each other is the first step to making sure that we do that,” Broach said.
“And then finding ways to give people a little bit of a breather here and there, give people a chance to step away from those direct-facing COVID roles as much as they can. Again, if that’s possible within their job description,” Broach said.
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