Entering the third year of a grueling pandemic, America’s healthcare workers report significant levels of burnout and even anger at the complications of politics and rising abuses from the disease. individuals and their families.
But three-quarters of them still say they love their jobs, one USA TODAY / Ipsos Poll found by doctors, nurses, paramedics, therapists and others. It is a demonstration of the resilience, not without some cost, of those who have been on the front lines fighting COVID-19.
“The pandemic has made me realize how important this profession is and how I can really make a difference,” said Christina Rosa, 33, a mental health counselor from central Massachusetts. “I still like it.”
Even so, 1 in 4 report they are likely to leave the healthcare sector, an exodus that would represent a major loss of medical expertise. Half said they were burned out. 1 in 5 people feel angry.
“We are trying to help people here, and we are being verbally and physically abused because of it,” said Sarah Fried, 53, of Santa Clara, California. , in Santa Clara, California.
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A nurse for 25 years, Fried now cares for leukemia and lymphoma patients in the hospital’s oncology department. Like flight attendants who have to deal with belligerent passengers, nurses at her hospital defied and even attacked as they tried to enforce COVID rules, including limiting about who can visit the patient. Sometimes they had to call security staff to help.
Fried, a survey respondent, said in a follow-up interview: “Early in this pandemic, people clapped for us and called us heroes. “And what happened to that? What happened to them to appreciate what the nurses are doing?”
Currently 43% of healthcare workers say they are worried, but 59% also say they are motivated and 56% are optimistic. While 59% feel hopeful, that’s a significant drop from the 76% of healthcare workers who reported feeling the same way last year when answering the same question in a survey. KFF / Washington Post survey.
Some warn that the health care system is “on the verge of collapse.” In the poll, 39% agreed with that statement. Only 32% disagree.
The USA TODAY/Ipsos poll of 1,170 healthcare workers, conducted February 9-16, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. The survey was conducted using Ipsos’ probabilistic online dashboard. Those surveyed include doctors and dentists, registered and licensed nurses, practice nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, home health assistants, therapists, technicians , dental hygienists and others who work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, clinics, patients’ homes and elsewhere.
Tosha Honey, 33, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, said: “Even before the pandemic hit, in this industry we always had a level of burnout when you sit back and listen to people’s struggles. different all day, but I would say it’s worse with COVID,” said Tosha Honey, 33, of Hot Springs, Arkansas. A licensed professional counselor, she works with children with behavioral and emotional problems. “I’m feeling a bit exhausted, but I’m just trying to do what I can to recharge and get back to it.”
Younger workers reported significantly higher stress levels than older caregivers. Among those under the age of 30, almost a third, 31%, feel angry. Twice as many, 61%, feel exhausted. Those emotions were less common in people 50 and older, though they were still high: 18% felt angry and 45% exhausted.
Steve Girling, president of Ipsos Health Care, said: “For healthcare workers entering the field in the past five to seven years, COVID has provided a devastating exposure to the intensity of their lives. live on the front lines. Workers of all ages “have been pushed to the brink of despair by COVID, delta and omicron variations. They are also some of the most resilient workers in the US economy.”
Overall, 23% of all healthcare workers say they are likely to leave this job soon. As in other sectors, COVID-19 has caused some workers to decide to change careers in what has been dubbed the Great Resignation.
A third of those surveyed, 34%, are unsure whether they would decide to go to healthcare or if they could choose a career again. That could signal problems ahead for attracting new healthcare workers in the post-pandemic world.
There’s no light at the end of this tunnel
In many aspects of US life, pandemic restrictions are being eased as the number of omicron variant cases drops. School districts have reopened for in-person learning, and governors and mayors around the country are dropping masked duties.
Of these healthcare workers, however, only one in five said the pandemic was completely or most under control; as well as many who say it’s “completely unregulated.” Most of those surveyed, 56%, had an average opinion, saying that the virus is now “somewhat” under control. That rating is slightly worse than that of a health worker in a KFF poll a year ago.
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There is a consensus on this: 2-1, 61% -31%, they say most Americans are not taking enough precautions in their daily lives to prevent the spread of COVID -19.
“I just wish that people would practice what they’re encouraged to do, practice social distancing and wash hands, all of that so we can work this out, then come back some more.” normal form,” said Sherrita Harrison, 47, a mental health therapist in Memphis, Tennessee. “The masks will be included in our lives indefinitely? Who knows?”
Patients refusing vaccinations are a source of particular frustration.
Nine out of 10 healthcare workers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly two-thirds received two doses along with a booster shot.
But more than half of those surveyed said they had treated COVID-19 patients they knew were unvaccinated. Two-thirds say these patients continue to express skepticism or opposition to the vaccine. About 4 out of 10 people have heard that they regret not getting vaccinated.
Healthcare workers give their employers high marks, 75% agree, for their response to the pandemic. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received a net positive rating: 54% approving, 34% disapproving. However, the Biden administration’s assessment is broken down on average, 41%-40%. Media coverage was rated bleak, 61% disapproved.
At the bottom is how the American public reacted: 68% disagreed, 18% approved.
“I think it’s crazy that we’re still here,” says Reagan Stinson, 31, an assistant physical therapist from Fort Worth, Texas. “Nearly two years later, I wish that people would take it more seriously in the first place.”
COVID-19 at home and at work
Of those who have seen a COVID-19 patient, half have treated a patient who has died.
“I really wish that the public could see what it’s like in the ICU, to see we still have people in the ICU with COVID, people now with tracheal tumors, people who are already on ventilators. this for weeks, months,” Fried, nurse. from California. “Terrible.”
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“I lost two colleagues at my job to COVID-19,” said Luke Howard, 42, of Toledo, Ohio. He is a psychiatrist at a state hospital. “We lost a 49-year-old nurse who had no underlying medical conditions. She was healthy, did not smoke; was not overweight and had a pulmonary embolism due to COVID-19 and passed away. And then we went. lost another colleague, an elderly man who had just retired seven or eight months ago.”
Howard realized that it was all confusing. “He wore a mask for a long time.”
Healthcare workers have faced a double whale during the pandemic. Not only do they find themselves dealing with COVID-19 and its breakdown at their workplace, but they also have the same stresses and worries as everyone else at home. And some fear they could bring the virus from the workplace and infect their families.
“I didn’t really have to be post-pandemic,” said Shannon Jackson, 38, an optometrist from the town of Washington in rural Georgia. “Now it seems like every day we’re really going to have to stop and rest to let things pass before we go home.”
Four out of 10 people say they are irritable and report that their sleep is disturbed, possibly because they sleep too much or suffer from insomnia. Nearly 3 out of 10 people report frequent headaches or stomachaches. 1 in 10 people increase their alcohol and drug use.
“We have families and personal lives, we also get stressed and have our own health problems and concerns,” says Rosa, a mental health counselor from Massachusetts. , said the mental health counselor from Massachusetts. She and her colleagues felt overwhelmed – like many of their patients.
“We involve a lot of our customers and patients, and we’re only human, and we’re trying to do the best we can. And we know you’re frustrated that you don’t. can be seen immediately or you have a longer wait time,” she said. “But we’re trying our best.”