Difficult working conditions, long hours and even workplace violence are just a few of the things pushing health care workers out of the industry.
"So many people are leaving. I feel that every day. We have empty beds but there aren't nurses to take care of the patients in them," Dr. Lakshman Swamy, a critical care doctor in Boston told Scripps News.
For Dr. Swamy, the weight of an already tough job increased during the pandemic.
"Everyone is kind of thinking like,'Oh my gosh, people are out there on the front lines doing this care,' I felt like I was really just watching a lot of people die and it was horrible," he recalled.
He wasn't alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2022 46% of health workers reported feeling burned out, with 44% saying they intended to look for a new job and increase over 2018 data.
The result is a shrinking workforce.
"These systems aren't going to be there for you the way that you grew up and the way that you expect them to be because the people just aren't there," Swamy warned.
Now, the CDC is putting forth efforts to care for the caretakers.
The new Impact Wellbeing program provides leadership with resources on addressing burnout, and encourages hospitals to administer well-being questionnaires to better understand the needs of employees.
Another goal is combating stigma by asking hospitals to get rid of the mental health questions on credentialing applications.
The initiative was developed with help from the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes' Foundation. Breen died by suicide in 2020 while treating patients at the height of the pandemic.
"She was concerned that her inability to keep up would be viewed as a sign of weakness and impact her career," said Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation Co-Founder J. Corey Feist.
That same CDC survey showed a decrease in burnout if the worker trusted management and had help from supervisors.
Swamy says the answer for him was therapy. He now advocates on behalf of fellow doctors, saying there's a lot that could and should come from the leadership who don't support workers taking the time off.
"Worse than that is when all of those things are there on paper, but it's really toxic underneath and it's really obvious that you can't actually do it," Swamy said. "I think it's actually not that hard to look at this and look at the metrics because if people aren't using the resources, it's your fault for not deploying them well and for not reaching people where they're needed," he continued.
If you need to talk to someone, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
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