Doctors, nurses and other workers have been dealing with burnout and mental health struggles, and new federal data sheds more light on the growing problem.
The mental health crisis in healthcare is also threatening to drive more people out of the industry, the data suggest.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report assessing the mental health challenges of healthcare workers. The CDC report notes that healthcare workers have been battling burnout for years, and those sentiments existed before the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the CDC findings indicate the problems are worsening.
Healthcare workers reported more days of poor mental health in the latest data. Health workers reported 4.5 days of poor mental health in the previous 30 days in 2022, compared to 3.3 days in 2018.
In 2022, 19% of healthcare workers said they experienced burnout very often over the previous 30 days, up from 11.6% in 2022.
Overall, nearly half (45.6%) of all health workers surveyed said they suffered from burnout often or very often in 2022.
The percentage of health workers who said they were being harassed at work more than doubled over a four-year span, rising from 6.4% in 2018 to 13.4% in 2022. Those who said they suffered harassment on the job were at least five times more likely to experience anxiety and burnout than other workers, the CDC found.
More healthcare workers said they are open to seeking career changes, the CDC found. In 2022, roughly 1 in 6 healthcare workers (16.5%) said they were very likely to look for a new job with another employer, compared to 11.1% in 2018.
Almost half of all health workers (44.2%) said they were somewhat likely or very likely to search for a new job in 2022, the CDC study found.
In what is likely a factor affecting their stress and burnout levels, more healthcare workers said they were not enough employees on the job. Roughly a third (32%) of healthcare workers said they didn’t have sufficient staff in 2022, up from 25.7% in 2018.
There’s been growing attention to levels of mental health in healthcare. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on burnout in the healthcare profession in May 2022. Murthy said healthcare leaders have “a moral obligation to address the long-standing crisis of burnout, exhaustion, and moral distress across the health community.”
In a speech at the National Press Club Wednesday, Jesse Ehrenfeld, the president of the American Medical Association, cited high levels of burnout as a factor in the nation’s physician shortage.
“There is an insidious crisis going on in medicine today that is having a profound impact on our ability to care for patients, and yet isn’t receiving the attention it deserves. This crisis is physician burnout,” Ehrenfeld said.
Hospital wellness leaders warn that if health systems don’t take steps to help healthcare workers with their mental health, they will face the consequences. Kristine Olson, chief wellness officer at Yale New Haven Hospital, told Chief Healthcare Executive in a July interview that hospitals who don’t pay attention to wellness could find it more difficult to retain top talent.
“If we don’t tackle it, people will physically leave .. either decrease their work effort or their time spent in a full-time capacity,” Olson said. “They may retire early, they may look for different jobs. They may be physically present, but not totally engaged in their work.”