Healthcare Worker Burnout Is Officially an Epidemic

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, July 07, 2022 Posted in Industry News

healthcare burnout

United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has issued a statement that will come as no surprise to nurses: Healthcare worker burnout is an epidemic — one that we need to address before it’s too late. “If we fail to act, we will place our nation’s health at risk,” he said in a statement addressing the growing attrition rates of nurses, doctors, specialists, and administrative staff. It’s a clear indication that burnout is reaching critical mass among healthcare professionals.

Pandemic-related burnout has not eased

Healthcare workers are no strangers to burnout. And the issue became even more prevalent during the pandemic. In fact, the entire healthcare industry has collectively felt the effects of burnout since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic — and these feelings have not gone away.

Although the pandemic has reached a more manageable state, the healthcare industry continues to face challenges with limited staffing, spikes in infection rates, and funding issues. These ever-present difficulties have only exacerbated the stress and fatigue that healthcare workers have felt for two years. Between March and April 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than half of all healthcare workers reported symptoms of at least one mental health condition, including anxiety or depression.

The mental and physical burdens placed on healthcare workers as COVID-19 swept across the country led many employees to leave the field entirely. This placed even more pressure on remaining staff members, causing many to resign as a result. According to an Incredible Health survey of more than 2,500 nurses, one third of nurses plan to quit their jobs by the end of 2022. Experts fear that these kinds of mass resignations will worsen the healthcare worker shortage and perpetuate the burnout cycle.

Burnout is reaching its breaking point

According to Surgeon General Murthy, burnout isn’t merely another challenge in the healthcare industry; it’s reaching critical mass. Nurses and other healthcare workers are at their breaking points.

Burnout is mimicking an epidemic in the way it spreads through hospitals and the industry at large. The burnout-related problems in healthcare facilities are compounding on one another, leading to worsening conditions. Travel nurses are seeing these issues firsthand as they visit numerous facilities each year. Burnout is not localized to one hospital — it’s a widespread problem that must be addressed immediately. The health of both our healthcare workers and the public is at risk.

burnout bomb

Nurses must stay mindful of burnout symptoms

According to the Surgeon General’s advisory, healthcare facilities are largely responsible for addressing burnout on a systemic level, but there are things that individuals can do as well. Nurses and doctors can play a role in minimizing burnout in their lives and the lives of their friends and colleagues. But first, healthcare workers must recognize the signs.

As with any epidemic, there are symptoms that indicate burnout. These often start small and become normalized, which can make them more difficult to pinpoint. It’s not uncommon for the modern nurse to experience physical or emotional exhaustion or a low sense of accomplishment after a difficult shift. But lately, many nurses have reported symptoms of anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Ignoring these symptoms can lead to worsened burnout.

Nurses must stay in tune with their own emotional and physical well-being. For example, healthcare workers may choose to:

  • Build in time for self-care, such as journaling, mindfulness, yoga, or a favorite hobby.
  • Check in with their colleagues if they are having a hard time.
  • Seek mental health support, as necessary, and encourage coworkers to do the same.

By prioritizing wellness, healthcare professionals can foster a healthier workplace and battle burnout.

Are you feeling the effects of burnout? Travel nursing is a wonderful way to break the monotony, create opportunity, and fulfill your passion for healthcare. Health Providers Choice is committed to helping our nurses reach their fullest potential and feel satisfied in their travel nursing careers. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.