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More health care workers burned out, facing harassment, data shows

More health care workers are reporting looking for new work coming out of the pandemic as more say they faced on-the-job harassment.
More health care workers burned out, facing harassment, data shows
Posted at 10:48 AM, Oct 25, 2023

Health care workers report being more burned out and encountering a rising number of on-the-job threats, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. 

The report compared data from 2022 to 2018, showing that 46% of workers reported feeling burned out in 2022, which was up from 32% in 2018. About 13.4% of health care workers said they had been harassed, which is more than double the rate from 2018. 

The harassment includes "threats, bullying, verbal abuse, or other actions from patients and coworkers that create a hostile work environment."

Those who reported being harassed were twice as likely to say they felt burned out or depressed. Those who have been harassed on the job also were much more likely to say they felt anxious.

Additionally, about 44% of health care workers say they are looking for new work, which is up from 33% in 2018. 

"Health workers continued to face a mental health crisis in 2022. Improving management and supervisory practices might reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and burnout. Protecting and promoting health worker mental health has important implications for the nation’s health system and public health," the CDC's report says. 

The CDC's report indicates that training managers on mental health awareness and ways to support workers and improve safety culture is a key way to prevent issues such as burnout.

SEE MORE: Walgreens employees planning major walkout over working conditions

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said he's made addressing health care worker burnout one of his top priorities.

"Health workers are leaving their jobs in large numbers," Murthy said in 2022. "We're looking at a future without enough doctors, nurses and other critical health workers. That puts our entire health care system at risk, and it makes it harder for patients to get care when they need it, not just for COVID, but for all our health needs. We must take action."

Also this week, the American Medical Association released data indicating that physicians are working longer hours than ever before. The AMA's survey found that physicians are working an average of 56.7 hours a week, an increase of two hours to previous years. 

“We can’t say with certainty the exact cause of the decline, but it’s important to note that the rise in burnout during 2021 happened during significant COVID-19 surges—Delta and Omicron, respectively. Those surges put enormous pressure on an already stressed health system,” said Nancy Nankivil, director of practice transformation at the AMA. “Apart from a decrease in COVID-19 as vaccines were introduced, we also saw more organizations paying attention to — and investing in — the well-being of their workforce.”

The new reports come weeks after workers at Kaiser Permanente staged the largest strike among health care workers in U.S. history.

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