Experts: Burnout could lead to shortage of critical health workers

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Posted at 7:39 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 19:39:45-04

CINCINNATI — For anyone struggling with burnout at work, you are not alone. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory warning of serious consequences if burnout among health care workers goes unaddressed.

"The nation's health depends on the well-being of our health workforce," Murthy said. "Confronting the long-standing drivers of burnout among our health workers must be a top national priority."

It is no surprise that pandemic pressure drove people away from the health care industry, psychologists said. However, what is happening to young workers in general is a burning issue.

"It can feel a lot like depression at times," said Dr. Ritch Hall, a licensed clinical therapist and owner of PsychWorks Clinic in Oxford. "It could be just difficulty getting out of bed on the days you don't have to be at work, struggling the whole day you are at work."

The National Academies of Medicine (NAM) reports 54% of physicians and nurses reported burnout. The same researchers reported 50% of public health workers had symptoms of a mental health condition like depression or anxiety. Also, eight out 10 health workers reported suffering workplace violence, according to NAM researchers.

"Join me in calling for the urgent changes our health workers need to thrive," Murthy said.

He predicts a five-year shortage of doctors, nurses and critical health workers.

At the same time, Hall sees alarming amounts of burnout among clients at Miami University Oxford.

"I had a lot of students this year, even, who were graduating into workforce and were already feeling a deep sense of depression," Hall said. "These are people (who) already have a job, everything is set and (they feel) unsure and scared and depressed about the future. So many traditions have been broken. They spent their whole life thinking they were going to go to prom, graduate, get into college and show up for that first job and have all these experiences.

"The last few years each of those things have been slowly been taken away or broken. Those promises are being broken because of things the world was going through at the time. So for them, that assurance (of having a job) doesn't feel sure. Then, they get to the workforce and it's not what they thought it would be."

Researchers for the job site Indeed found young workers reporting more burnout than others. 58% of "Gen Z" and 59% of Millenials reported feeling overwhelmed. Like older age groups surveyed, things grew worse over the last 12 months.

While the surgeon general called on health systems, insurance companies and governments to ease burdens, Dr. Maria Espinola, clinical psychologist and CEO of the Institute of Health Equity and Innovation, recommended people take time off, exercise, explore the arts to relieve stress and fatigue in positive ways.

"We can't just ask workers to go to the therapist on your own time or come to this zoom meeting which also falls on your lunch hour," said Espinola. "It's just not right. Companies need to stop looking at this as an expense and more as an investment."

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