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Mental health matters: Doctors leaving hospitals in droves due to stress, anxiety from COVID pandemic

Mary Villareal

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A recent survey revealed that one in four doctors plan to leave their primary care jobs in the next three years due to the stress that they are experiencing because of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The survey, which was conducted by The Larry A. Green Center in Virginia, showed that the stress levels of these doctors improved when vaccines became widely available in the U.S. last summer, but declined back to pre-vaccine levels when the delta variant sparked waves of new outbreaks across the country.

In February, only a fifth of the medical facilities where the respondents of the study worked were fully staffed, with 44 percent having clinician positions they could not fill.

Some clinicians surveyed also reported experiencing suicidal ideation, panic attacks in their sleep and the need to pull cars over on the way home from work as they experience nausea and vomiting due to stress.

Rebecca Etz, the co-director of the Green Center told the online medical journal JAMA Network that half the clinicians didn’t have Personal Protective Equipment six months into the pandemic, and people were forced to wear coffee filters and garbage bags to take care of their patients.

The doctors were also asked about the state of their mental and physical health.

One admitted to being “emotionally traumatized and experiencing severe burnout” while another admitted to being “chronically exhausted,” adding that there is no relief in sight.

Moreover, 62 percent of 847 clinicians surveyed had personal knowledge of other primary care clinicians who retired early or quit during the pandemic, while 29 percent knew of practices that closed.

Other doctors reported about their hospitals being severely understaffed as COVID-19 patients came in droves, while others said they had too little work to do as patients were advised to postpone or forgo regular medical appointments due to restrictions on in-person care early in the pandemic and during subsequent COVID-19 surges.

With the pandemic now entering its third year, understaffing remains to be the biggest problem, according to researchers.  (Related: CRISIS FACTORY: New York to declare state of emergency due to staffing shortages caused by government’s covid vaccine mandates.)

“Workforce in health care is an issue of national significance and is reaching a crisis in many parts of the country,” said Akin Demehin, director of policy at the American Hospital Association trade group.

“Leading up to the pandemic, there were already significant workforce challenges. The pandemic has amplified them, stemming from fatigue after wave after successive waves of patients.”

Medical assistants, nursing assistants experience similar stress

Medical assistants and nursing assistants also experienced some of the highest degrees of COVID-related stress, and health care organizations nationwide are having a tough time filling these positions – leaving clinics shorthanded and adding more work and stress to the rest of the care team.

“Our study demonstrates that the U.S. health care workforce is in peril. If even one-third to one-half of nurses and physicians carry out their expressed intentions to cut back or leave, we won’t have enough staff to meet the needs of patients,” said Dr. Christine A. Sinsky, American Medical Association (AMA) vice president of professional satisfaction.

“To maintain access for patients and to prevent the remaining clinicians from being overwhelmed, we need to stem the loss of health care workers,” added Sinsky.

A major contributing factor to the mass resignations is the high rates of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and post-traumatic stress disorder among frontline medical workers.

To combat physician burnout, medical practices can do more to retain hospital staff who can help alleviate some of the pressures on doctors by completing non-medical tasks, said Dr. Mark Linzer, a professor of medicine.

“The ‘great resignation’ is affecting a lot of our staff, who don’t feel necessarily cared for by their organizations. The staff are leaving, which leaves the physicians to do more non-physician work. So really, in order to solve this, we need to pay attention to all of our healthcare workers,” he added. (Related: Australia to suspend unvaccinated health workers without pay, despite the fact that many have natural immunity.)

Follow for more news related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch the video below for more information on the record number of unemployment for healthcare workers despite the world being in the middle of a pandemic:


This video is from the Wellness Forum Health channel on

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