Three in 10 Healthcare Workers Are Considering Leaving Their Careers as Coronavirus Pandemic Takes Its Toll

Health workers wearing protective face masks react during a tribute for their co-worker Esteban, a male nurse who died of COVID-19, outside the Severo Ochoa Hospital in Leganes, Spain, April 13, 2020. REUTERS/Susana Vera

The doctor’s bag now sits in his closet gathering dust. He lost his stethoscope somewhere in the house – a familiar weight that sat on his neck for two decades.

It’s been months since Justin Meschler, 48, practiced medicine. And he wonders if he ever will again.

He quit his job as an anesthesiologist during the pandemic last spring when fear began seeping into every part of his life. And what began as a few months off has now turned into something much longer.

“I feel guilty for leaving. I think about the others who stayed on. I think about the patients I could have helped. I feel like I abandoned them,” Meschler said. “But mostly, I feel relieved.”

A year into the pandemic, many others are joining Meschler at the door – an exodus fueled by burnout, trauma and disillusionment. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, roughly 3 in 10 health-care workers have weighed leaving their profession. More than half are burned out. And about6 in 10 say stress from the pandemic has harmed their mental health.

In wrenching interviews, nurses, doctors, technicians – and even administrative staff and dental hygienists who haven’t directly treated covid-19 patients – explained the impulse to quit and the emotional wreckage the pandemic has left in their lives.

It’s not just the danger they’ve endured, they say. Many talked about the betrayal and hypocrisy they feel from the public they have sacrificed so much to save – their clapping and hero-worship one day, then refusal to wear masks and take basic precautions the next, even if it would spare health workers the trauma of losing yet another patient.

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SOURCE: Stamford Advocate; The Washington Post, William Wan

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