Nearly 25% of physicians and 40% of nurses say they may leave their jobs due to stress and burnout, study finds,
The U.S. could be on its way to losing nearly a quarter of its physicians and up to 40% of its nurses unless health care organizations take steps to mitigate the high levels of stress and burnout among their clinical workers brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those troubling results emerge from a recent study of the relationship between COVID-related stress and the work intentions among more than 20,000 clinical and non-clinical health care workers at 124 organizations around the country.
In the study, which took place between July 1 and December 31, 2020, 24% of doctors, 40% of nurses and 33% of advanced practice providers (APPs) said it was “moderately,” “likely” or “definite” that they would leave their current practice in the next two years.
In addition, 34% of nurses, 31% of physicians and 29% of APPs reported moderate, likely or definite plans to reduce their work hours in the next 12 months. Study respondents worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
The study found that higher levels of burnout, stress, workload, fear of infection, anxiety/depression due to COVID-19 and number of years in practice were each associated with a greater intention to reduce work hours or leave practice. High stress was most prevalent among nurses (37.4% of respondents), followed by doctors (33.7%) those in other clinical roles (34.5%) and APPs (32.6%). Nurses also reported the highest levels of burnout (63%), followed by those in other clinical roles (58.7%), APPs (53.7%), and physicians (48%).
The authors offer suggestions for addressing two of the key factors associated with intent to reduce hours or leave. The first is to reduce stress/burnout through steps such as providing adequate personal protective equipment, ensuring access to confidential mental health services and reducing work overload by creating more opportunities for teamwork.
The second approach builds on the study’s findings that people are less likely to leave their job or reduce work hours if they feel valued. The authors recommend health care organizations work to make communication transparent, support child care, and provide rapid training for employees deployed to unfamiliar units as ways that organizations can demonstrate appreciation for their employees.
The study, “COVID-Related Stress and Work Intentions in a Sample of US Health Care Workers,” appears in the December 2021 Mayo Clinic Proceedings.