“Since COVID hit I no longer wanted to be a nurse. The pandemic created a stressful work environment, understaffed shifts, and policy changes that negatively affect staff nurses,” says Tamesha Williams, who has been a nurse for eleven years and during the past four years has been working as an Emergency Department Nurse.
By now, you’ve heard about healthcare workers suffering from burnout, especially since the onset of the pandemic.
A new study from The Lancet has found that issues such as the fear of exposure or transmission of the coronavirus, anxiety, depression, and work overload have contributed to burnout, with nursing assistants, medical assistants, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and social workers having the highest stress scores.
The study found that almost half of female healthcare workers in the United States, over forty-nine percent, experienced burnout, compared to forty-one percent of men. Women admitted to having anxiety and depression more frequently than men, with men feeling more valued by their organization than women.
“I’ve faced irritability, fatigue, insomnia, and decreased work performance over the past year. I went from being excited about my work to feeling mentally and physically drained after clocking in. I rarely feel like participating in-home activities and I’ve noticed that I sleep more than usual,” says Williams.
Healthcare worker burnout isn’t new; studies show that burnout among doctors and nurses was prevalent before the pandemic and was deemed “a public health crisis.” The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, placing an even greater strain on healthcare workers.
In a survey conducted by the American Nurses Foundation, titled Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses COVID-19 Survey Series: COVID-19 Impact Assessment Survey, over 1,800 nurses from Texas were surveyed; eighty-nine percent of the respondents were women. Sixty-six percent of the respondents reported they had plans to leave or had considered leaving nursing.
The primary reasons listed for leaving the profession were the effect of the job on their mental health, followed by the strain of insufficient staffing.
Melissa Martinez, a nurse from New Jersey, says, “I just returned to work after a six-month break. I moved from New Jersey and just landed in Florida. I wasn’t in a real rush to go back to work so taking the break refreshed me. So taking breaks was the answer for me.”
When it comes to fixing the issue, Williams echoes what a 2016 study by JAMA Internal Medicine found, “My job would be easier and more rewarding if I was appreciated [by leadership], if there was better staffing and fair monetary compensation.”