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American health care workers have remained resilient during the pandemic but are feeling the ongoing strain, with 23% saying they are likely to leave the field in the near future, according to a new poll.
About half of the respondents to the poll from USA Today/Ipsos reported feeling “burned out,” 43% said they were “anxious,” and 21% said they were “angry” about politics and abuse from patients and families.
“We’re trying to help people here, and we are getting verbally and physically abused for it,” Sarah Fried, a nurse in California who responded to the survey, told USA Today in a follow-up interview.
“Early in this pandemic, people were clapping for us and calling us heroes,” she said. “And what happened to that? What happened to them appreciating what nurses are doing?”
The poll was done Feb. 9-16 among 1,170 adults in the U.S. health care industry, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, therapists, home health aides, dentists, and other medical professionals.
A large majority of workers still reported being satisfied with their jobs, although that optimism has declined somewhat since early 2021 when the COVID-19 vaccine rollout was underway. About 80% of those in the recent poll said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their current job, which is down from 89% in an April 2021 poll from Kaiser Family Foundation/The Washington Post.
Most health care workers reported feeling “hopeful” (59%), “motivated” (59%), or “optimistic” (56%) about going to work. But “hopeful” is down from 76% and “optimistic” is down from 67%, compared to last year.
If they could pick a career over again, about 16% disagreed with the statement, “I would still decide to go into health care,” and 18% said they didn’t know how they felt about it.
“The pandemic has actually made me realize how important this career is and how I really do make a difference. I still love it,” Christina Rosa, a mental health counselor in Massachusetts, told USA Today.
During the pandemic, about 66% of those polled said they had treated a COVID-19 patient, which increased to 84% among nurses and 86% among hospital workers. Among those, 47% reported having a patient who died from COVID-19, including 53% of nurses and 55% of hospital workers.
What’s more, 81% of those who treated COVID-19 patients have cared for unvaccinated patients. Among those, 67% said their patients continued to express skepticism toward COVID-19 vaccines, and 38% said some patients expressed regret for not getting a vaccine. Beyond that, 26% said unvaccinated patients asked for unproven treatments, and 30% said the patient or family criticized the care they received.
Regarding coronavirus-related policy, most Americans working in health care expressed skepticism or criticism of the nation’s handling of the pandemic. About 39% agreed that the American health care system is “on the verge of collapse.”
Only 21% said the pandemic is mostly or completely under control. About 61% don’t think Americans are taking enough precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Health care workers were slightly positive when it comes to the CDC (54% approve, 34% disapprove), divided on the Biden administration (41% approve, 40% disapprove), and critical of the news media (20% approve, 61% disapprove) and the American public (18% approve, 68% disapprove).
Broadly, though, health care workers support public health efforts. About 85% back measures that provide N95 masks, and 83% back measures that provide COVID-19 tests.
Ipsos: “American Healthcare Workers Persevering, but Remain Stressed.”
USA Today: “Exclusive: Angry and abused, health care workers still overwhelmingly love careers, poll shows.”
Kaiser Family Foundation: “KFF/The Washington Post Frontline Health Care Workers Survey,” April 2021.
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