The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major shift in the way the healthcare system works, and unfortunately, not in a good way. According to the American Medical Association, 1 in 5 physicians say that they will likely leave their current practice within the next two years, and 1 in 3 health professionals say they intend to reduce their work hours over the next year.
It seems that healthcare workers have always gone unappreciated while being overworked, and the global pandemic has made matters worse. Due to the general public putting off receiving healthcare during the pandemic, health systems are being flooded with patients in need of immediate care. Those with serious illnesses and conditions have gotten worse as time has gone on, as a result of not seeking treatment during the pandemic. A lot of people weren’t interested in stepping foot into a healthcare facility of any kind, sometimes even in cases where the need for care was urgent, for fear of contracting COVID-19. As a result of this, there aren’t enough healthcare workers to treat the mass amounts of patients that are in need of care.
At first, burnout as a result of treating COVID-19 patients was the reason for healthcare workers leaving the medical field in droves. An overwhelming amount of patients came to the hospital with COVID-19, and a lot of those patients were not so fortunate. Healthcare workers were under a lot of stress as a result of these losses, but then it just kept happening. Patients were being lost, and then to add to it, patients in need of serious treatment came to the hospital after repeatedly putting it off.
Some other reasons for physicians either reducing their hours or leaving medicine altogether include:
- lack of pay compared to the number of hours worked
- no longer experiencing fulfillment
- being part of an unsupportive health system
It’s no secret that physicians have been trying to negotiate higher wages for years. They have always worked incredibly long hours with incomparable pay, but working during COVID-19 has been a major cause for frustration. A labor shortage combined with a global pandemic has caused tension throughout the entire healthcare system.
Healthcare providers are also realizing that they are no longer fulfilled by a career in medicine. In some cases, this may be due to pressure put on them by their parents. Sometimes, this could also be a result of working in a job that turned out to be more strenuous than they initially expected. Medical school and residency experiences can differ from practicing medicine as an attending physician.
The most significant reason that healthcare providers are choosing to leave medicine is that they feel unsupported by the healthcare system and by their attendings and administrators. There’s a lot of stigma around speaking out about mental health in general, and in healthcare, ironically, it isn’t any better. With this being said, in a lot of cases, attendings and administrators don’t have the power to fix aspects of the healthcare system on a whim. The anger that new physicians are feeling is the same anger that their attendings are feeling. Everyone who works in a healthcare facility has experienced this at one time or another.
It's likely that you’ve felt these things in your day-to-day life, as well, and it shouldn’t go unnoticed. If there’s anything burnout-related that you wish to share with us, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love hearing from you!