Dr. Sheetal Khedkar Rao, 42, an internist in suburban Chicago, cant pinpoint the exact moment when she decided to hang up her stethoscope for the last time. There were the chaos and confusion of the spring, when a nationwide shortage of N95 masks forced her to examine patients with a surgical mask, the fears she might take the coronavirus home to her family and the exasperating public disregard for mask-wearing and social distancing that was amplified by the White House.
Among the final blows, though, were a 30 percent pay cut to compensate for a drop in patients seeking primary care, and the realization that she needed to spend more time at home after her children, 10 and 11, switched to remote learning.
Everyone says doctors are heroes and they put us on a pedestal, but we also have kids and aging parents to worry about, said Dr. Rao, who left her practice in October. After awhile, the emotional burden and moral injury become too much to bear.
Doctors, paramedics and nurses aides have been hailed as Americas frontline Covid warriors, but gone are the days when people applauded workers outside hospitals and on city streets.
Now, a year into the pandemic, with emergency rooms packed again, vaccines in short supply and more contagious variants of the virus threatening to unleash a fresh wave of infections, the nations medical workers are feeling burned out and unappreciated.
Over the last year, there have been the psychological trauma of overworked intensive care doctors forced to ration care, the crushing sense of guilt for nurses who unknowingly infected patients or family members, and the struggles of medical personnel who survived Covid-19 but are still hobbled by the fatigue and brain fog that hamper their ability to work.
Researchers say the pandemics toll on the nations health care work force will play out long after the coronavirus is tamed. The impact, for now, can be measured in part by a surge of early retirements and the desperation of community hospitals struggling to hire enough workers to keep their emergency rooms running.
Everyone wants to talk about vaccines, vaccines, vaccines, but for our members, all they want to talk about is work force, work force, work force, said Alan Morgan, chief executive of the National Rural Health Association. Right now our hospitals and our workers are just getting crushed.
Some health care experts are calling for a national effort to track the psychological well-being of medical professionals, much like the federal health program that monitors workers who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
We have a great obligation to people who put their lives on the line for the nation, said Dr. Victor J. Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine.
Celia Nieto, 44, an intensive care nurse in Las Vegas, said many Americans had scant appreciation for the tribulations that she and her colleagues face day after day. There is the physical exhaustion of lifting and turning patients on their bellies so they might breathe easier, the never-ending scramble to adjust ventilators and pain medication, and the mental anguish of telling relatives she doesnt have the time to help them FaceTime with their loved ones.
It feels like were failing, when in actuality were working with what weve got and we dont have enough, she said. We feel quite helpless, and its a real injury to our psyches.
Dr. Donald Pathman, a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said he was struck by the early results of a study he has been conducting on the pandemics effect on clinicians who serve in poor communities. Many of the 2,000 medical, dental and mental health professionals who have participated in the survey so far say they are disillusioned.
There is a lot of personal trauma, Dr. Pathman said. Many people have been scarred by their experiences during the pandemic, and they will look to leave their practices.
In interviews, doctors who have recently left the field or are considering early retirement said the pandemic had exacerbated frustrations spurred by shifts in the business of medical care that often required them to work longer hours without increased compensation.
In a survey released in September by the online site Medscape, two-thirds of American doctors said they had grappled with intense burnout during the pandemic, with a similar percentage reporting a drop in income. A quarter of respondents said their experiences with Covid had led them to exit the medical field.
Another survey, by the Physicians Foundation, found that 8 percent of doctors in the United States had closed their offices during the pandemic, translating to 16,000 fewer private practices.
Feb. 14, 2021, 8:48 p.m. ET
Dr. Erica Bial, a pain specialist from suburban Boston who barely survived Covid-19 last spring, said she felt increasingly drained.
We put on our masks and come to work every day because we dont have the luxury of working from home in our pajamas, but the apathy and ennui thats taken hold of society just makes our job feel thankless, said Dr. Bial, who works full time despite struggling with the lingering effects of her illness. Its so demoralizing.
Staffing shortages have been especially acute at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. They were already struggling to retain employees before the pandemic, but many are now facing an existential shortage of skilled workers. According to a study released last week by the nonpartisan U.S. PIRG Education Fund, more than 20 percent of the nations 15,000 nursing homes reported severe shortages of nursing aides in December, up from 17 percent in May, a significant jump over such a short period.
As more and more medical staff members fall ill or quit, those who remain on the job have to work harder, and the quality of care invariably suffers, said Dr. Michael L. Barnett, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who served as a consultant to the study.
Its a recipe for a collapse in the work force, he said.
So far, the federal government has shown little interest in addressing what Dr. Dzau, of the National Academy of Medicine, writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, described as a parallel pandemic of psychological trauma among health workers.
He and other experts say the government should start by making a concerted effort to accurately count medical worker infections and fatalities.
There is no comprehensive federal government count of worker deaths. But according to a tally by Kaiser Health News and the Guardian, more than 3,300 nurses, doctors, social workers and physical therapists have died from Covid-19 since March.
Experts say the death toll is most likely far higher. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts 1,332 deaths among medical personnel, which is striking given that its sister agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, lists roughly the same number of deaths just among nursing home workers a small portion of those employed by the nations hospitals, health clinics and private practices.
A number of studies suggest that medical professionals made up 10 percent to 20 percent of all coronavirus cases in the early months of the pandemic though they comprise roughly 4 percent of the population.
Christopher R. Friese, a researcher at University of Michigan, said the governments failure to track health care workers had most likely contributed to many unnecessary deaths. Without detailed, comprehensive data, he said, federal health authorities have been hamstrung in their ability to identify patterns and come up with interventions.
The number of health care worker deaths in this country are staggering, but as shocking and horrifying as they are, we cant be surprised because some very basic tools to address the crisis were left on the shelf, said Dr. Friese, who directs the schools Center for Improving Patient and Population Health.
Jasmine Reed, a spokeswoman for the C.D.C., acknowledged the limitations of its coronavirus case data, noting that the agency relies on reporting from state health departments and that can vary according to the state. At least a dozen states do not even participate in the C.D.C.s reporting process, she said.
Many medical workers who have survived Covid-19 face more immediate challenges. Dr. Bial, the pain specialist from Boston, is still plagued by fatigue and impaired lung function.
The day before I got sick, I could comfortably run eight to 10 miles, said Dr. Bial, 45, who started a Facebook group memorializing doctors lost to Covid. Now I go out for a brisk walk and my heart is pounding. Im starting to wonder whether these effects could be permanent.
Dr. Andrew T. Chan, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who has been studying the pandemics disproportionate toll on health care workers, said his preliminary research suggested that long haulers in the medical field suffer greater health challenges than the overall population. That is in part because they are often exposed to increased levels of virus, which can lead to more severe illness.
Another factor, he said, is that the worsening staffing shortages in much of the country lead many Covid survivors to return to work before they have fully recovered.
Health care workers are likely to experience a greater risk of long-term complications, Dr. Chan said. Covid could impact our health care system for years to come by not only depleting our work force but by impairing the ability of survivors to do their jobs.
- Is It Possible to Change the Structure Of The Brain With Meditation? - January 20th, 2022
- Single-payer health care is back on the table at the California Capitol - Capital Public Radio News - January 11th, 2022
- Grant will help improve access to health care - Washington Daily News - thewashingtondailynews.com - January 11th, 2022
- Health care workers face fatigue as they deal with more COVID-19 patients - News 12 Bronx - January 11th, 2022
- Philly ER doctor: Omicron wave threatens to overpower exhausted health-care workers | Expert Opinion - The Philadelphia Inquirer - January 11th, 2022
- County seeks to expand mental health care for those facing incarceration - Austin Monitor - January 11th, 2022
- CIOs plan big investments in EHR optimization and pop health IT - Healthcare IT News - January 11th, 2022
- Steward Health Care Week 22 high school star athletes of the week - Deseret News - January 11th, 2022
- Health care workers brave bitter cold temperatures at testing sites in Milwaukee - WDJT - January 11th, 2022
- United Way, UPMC, community partners thank health-care workers - Williamsport Sun-Gazette - January 11th, 2022
- COVID hospitalizations hit 300, as many healthcare workers call in sick - KHON2 - January 11th, 2022
- Could this be the year for single-payer health care in New York? - Times Union - January 11th, 2022
- Latinos in U.S. often live in 'deserts' where adequate housing, groceries are hard to find - USA TODAY - January 11th, 2022
- J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference Starts With Lots of Deals, No Blockbuster M&A - Barron's - January 11th, 2022
- Read the latest Gambit: Getting mental health care in the age of disaster - NOLA.com - January 11th, 2022
- US hospitals recruit foreign nurses to ease health care worker shortage : Shots - Health News - NPR - January 11th, 2022
- [PODCAST] The Pandemic and Beyond: Navigating Disputes Within Health Care Systems - JD Supra - January 11th, 2022
- We're buying more of this high-quality health-care stock amid the market sell-off - CNBC - January 11th, 2022
- Health care heroes honored | News, Sports, Jobs - Youngstown Vindicator - February 15th, 2021
- Black community leaders to discuss vaccines and repairing trust in health care - wcia.com - February 15th, 2021
- Gourmet Cookie owner sharing the love with health care workers by donating treats for each dozen cookies sold - WATE 6 On Your Side - February 15th, 2021
- Funding for Health Care Providers During the Pandemic: An Update - Kaiser Family Foundation - February 15th, 2021
- Vaccine rollout wont be equitable unless health care reckons with racism - The Verge - February 15th, 2021
- City adds disabled residents, home health care providers to list of groups eligible for vaccinations | City of Detroit - City of Detroit - February 15th, 2021
- Delawareans Will Have New Opportunity to Gain Health Insurance Through HealthCare.Gov from Feb. 15 to May 15 - State of Delaware News -... - February 15th, 2021
- New help to quit smoking; how to get the health care you need - The Union Leader - February 15th, 2021
- What Health Care Providers and Facilities Should Know About the PREP Act's "Covered Countermeasures" - JD Supra - February 15th, 2021
- These Are The States Attempting to Pass Anti-Trans Health Care Bills - Human Rights Campaign - February 15th, 2021
- Many health care workers turned down their COVID vaccine. Here's why - KGW.com - February 15th, 2021
- Healthcare equity and Alzheimers is the focus of March 3 virtual town hall - cleveland.com - February 15th, 2021
- 'It happened so quickly': Health-care workers lose everything in house fire - 9News.com KUSA - February 15th, 2021
- Since vaccinations began, fewer health care workers in Richmond have tested positive - Richmond.com - February 15th, 2021
- Escalating Cyberattacks on Healthcare Organizations Highlight Need for Security Interventions - HIT Consultant - February 15th, 2021
- Who can afford healthcare these days? | Journal-news - Martinsburg Journal - February 15th, 2021
- 3 of the most pressing health care topics of 2021 - cerner.com - cerner.com - February 4th, 2021
- Biden Moves to Expand Health Coverage in Pandemic Economy - The New York Times - February 4th, 2021
- Bidens Health Care Moves - The New York Times - February 4th, 2021
- UB Department of Surgery launches Anti-Racism and Health Care Equity Initiative with Cornel West as inaugural speaker - UB News Center - February 4th, 2021
- Health Care Unions Find a Voice as the Pandemic Rages - The New York Times - February 4th, 2021
- UPMC Health Care Workers Surprised With Trip To Super Bowl - CBS Pittsburgh - February 4th, 2021
- Partnership created to accelerate health care innovation - WISHTV.com - February 4th, 2021
- Frontline health care workers with ties to Charlotte win free tickets to Super Bowl LV - WCNC.com - February 4th, 2021
- Stroke Recovery - Norton Healthcare - February 4th, 2021
- Hims & Hers, ATA, and 10 others launch Telehealth Equity Coalition - Healthcare IT News - February 4th, 2021
- Rebuilding trust after COVID-19: U.S. healthcare experts weigh in - Medical News Today - February 4th, 2021
- 'Out of Control': Wuhan Health Care Worker Sheds New Light on How COVID's Early Days Really Unfolded in China - FRONTLINE - February 4th, 2021
- 4 Cincinnati health care workers awarded free trip to 2021 Super Bowl - WLWT Cincinnati - February 4th, 2021
- Biden signs executive orders to expand health care access - CBS News - February 4th, 2021
- RI field hospital nurse one of 75 New England health care workers to attend the big game - WPRI.com - February 4th, 2021
- Long Beach moves from vaccinating health care workers to teachers. Mayor says their strategy is different from other cities - KCRW - February 4th, 2021
- Global Healthcare Analytics Market Worth USD 80.21 billion by 2026; Launch of Project Apollo by Cerner to Boost Market - GlobeNewswire - February 4th, 2021
- Kudos to health care workers at vaccination clinic - Beckley Register-Herald - February 4th, 2021
- Change Healthcare Inc. Reports Third Quarter Fiscal 2021 Financial Results - Business Wire - February 4th, 2021
- Accenture rebuffed again in Healthcare.gov protest - FCW.com - February 4th, 2021
- ZEISS partners with Microsoft for better patient care through data-driven healthcare and to enhance quality and efficiency in manufacturing - Stories... - October 8th, 2020
- New Funding to Bring Mental Health Care to Homeless Shelters, Encampments - WTTW News - October 8th, 2020
- Healthcare companies cashing in on financing vehicle boom - Modern Healthcare - October 8th, 2020
- Health care is already benefiting from VR - The Economist - October 8th, 2020
- Health Care: The Best and the Rest | by David Oshinsky - The New York Review of Books - October 8th, 2020
- Diversity in health care starts at the beginning - Nevada Today - October 8th, 2020
- Respiratory therapists: Vital part of health care team - Brownwood Bulletin - October 8th, 2020
- MedaSource: Depth and Breadth in Life Sciences and Healthcare Consulting - BioSpace - October 8th, 2020
- Value-based Care After COVID-19: What Healthcare Leaders Need to Know - Medical Economics - October 8th, 2020
- Free sessions on legal and financial issues for those with neurological conditions - Norton Healthcare - October 8th, 2020
- Telemedicine and Digital Health to Set the Tone for Healthcare - Medical Device and Diagnostics Industry - October 8th, 2020
- How one conversation turned into a fundraiser helping healthcare workers - WATN - Local 24 - October 8th, 2020
- The 14 US health care billionaires, according to Forbes - The Daily Briefing - October 8th, 2020
- Sonic Healthcare USA Enhances Test Offerings with the Launch of Multiplex Assay for COVID-19 and Flu - PRNewswire - October 8th, 2020
- Florida is falling behind on health care and voting rights | Column - Tampa Bay Times - September 21st, 2020
- Doctors Push For Health Care To Address Climate Change In New Teaching Framework - Here And Now - September 21st, 2020
- Closing the rural health care access gap in Jackman, and maybe beyond - Mainebiz - September 21st, 2020
- Digital engagement and transformation of healthcare in Singapore - Healthcare IT News - September 21st, 2020
- From the Editor: The health care business adjusts to an ever-changing world - Mainebiz - September 21st, 2020
- The Coronavirus Is Creating A Mental Health Crisis For Health Care Workers - HuffPost - September 21st, 2020
- Intermountain Healthcare: Fighting for greater health and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community - ABC 4 - September 21st, 2020
- Letter: Wagner is clueless on health care and the pandemic - STLtoday.com - September 21st, 2020
- Walmart to open health care clinics in Kissimmee and throughout Florida - positivelyosceola.com - September 21st, 2020
- Local VA receives 2020 Healthcare Organization of Distinction Award - Wgnsradio - September 21st, 2020
- Law and order vs. health care as Dems, GOP vie for suburbs - The Associated Press - September 21st, 2020
- Prescription Drug And Healthcare Costs Are Rising - Forbes - September 21st, 2020