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Today’s health care employee: Underpaid, underappreciated, and exhausted

Article

Many medical professionals see an industry in crisis with no solutions in sight

Despite COVID becoming less of an issue, the health care industry is still struggling with a multitude of problems, according to a survey from Tebra. Medical professionals are caught in an industry crisis that affects both workers and patients.

Health care workers are burned out: ©Wichayada -stock.adobe.com

Health care workers are burned out: ©Wichayada -stock.adobe.com

A survey of more than 500 medical professionals found the following:

  • California, Texas, and Georgia reported the most critical staffing shortages in the past year
  • 35% of health care workers have seen a co-worker fall asleep during a shift
  • 73% of health care workers feel underpaid, and 59% feel unappreciated at work
  • 77% of health care workers believe a health care crisis will occur within the next year due to understaffing and employee burnout
  • One in three health care workers plan to leave their job within the next year, and 14% plan to leave the industry entirely

Exhaustion and lack of sleep is prevalent in health care, with more than one in three saying they made a mistake on the job because of it. Respondents said they had misinterpreted/miscommunicated patient information (21%), administered the wrong medication or dosage (16%), or failed to respond to a patient emergency (11%) due to exhaustion. In addition, 40% of health care workers also witnessed an overtired colleague make a mistake, almost 80% of survey participants reported difficulty concentrating, and 67% expressed an increased likelihood of making mistakes.

The lack of sleep is also affecting workers’ ability to respond to patients’ emotional needs while negatively affecting their own. Close to 60% of participants reported increased impatience or irritability, and 37% said exhaustion affected their sense of empathy and emotional intelligence, while 40% reported a worsening sense of depression.

Short-staffing is also a common problem in health care, with 60% of health care workers reporting their facilities don’t have enough staff.

Combined, all these problems point to a growing crisis that health care workers fear could get worse if things don’t change, and their satisfaction is suffering as a result. According to the report, 73% of those surveyed felt underpaid, 59% felt unappreciated at work, and 35% said morale was low at their workplace.

The solutions, according to respondents, included:

  1. Improving compensation by increasing pay and benefits
  2. Hiring more staff to reduce workload and stress
  3. Offering more flexible scheduling for a better work-life balance
  4. Providing more opportunities for breaks and rest at work

The report notes that unless workplace changes are made quickly, 77% of health care workers fear a health care crisis within the next year due to critical issues such as understaffing and employee burnout.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health