a new survey of more than 5,000 clinicians at an academic medical center illustrates.
About one in five people reported considering leaving the workforce because of the challenges of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, 30% reported they are considering cutting back work hours.
“There are a substantial number of employees and trainees who are experiencing major stress and work disruptions because of the pandemic,” lead author Rebecca K. Delaney, PhD, said in an interview. “It is particularly alarming that people who have spent 5 or more years in training for their specialty are struggling with their work, so much so that they have even considered leaving the workforce or reducing their hours.”
“Being a caregiver adds another layer of difficulty for faculty, staff, and trainees who are trying to manage work and child care,” added Dr. Delaney, a researcher in the department of population health sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.
The study was published online April 2 in JAMA Network Open.
“This looks like an excellent survey,” Carol A Bernstein, MD, said in an interview when asked to comment. “I do not think it provides particularly new information as these challenges in the workplace, especially for women during COVID, have been well documented in the media and the medical literature to date.”
“That said, to the extent that data helps drive solutions, I would hope that information such as this would be considered as strong further evidence that health care systems must pay close attention to the wellbeing of the workforce,” added Dr. Bernstein, professor and vice chair of faculty development and well-being, departments of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health, Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.
When the pandemic hits home
A total of 42% of the American workforce rapidly transitioned to working from home at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, many employees had to provide child care and assistance with schoolwork. This placed a burden on many individuals at academic medical centers, and women in particular.
“Women comprise 74.9% of hospital employees, many of whom are essential clinical workers,” the researchers noted. “The extent of the needs and difficulties for these workers during the pandemic remain largely unknown.”
To learn more, Dr. Delaney, senior author Angie Fagerlin, PhD, and their colleagues emailed a Qualtrics survey to 27,700 faculty, staff, and trainees at University of Utah Health. The survey was conducted Aug. 5-20, 2020 as part of a quality improvement initiative. All responses were anonymous.
Survey questions included if, because of the pandemic, people had considered leaving the workforce, considered reducing their hours, or experienced reduced productivity. The researchers also asked about career impacts and potential solutions in terms of “work culture adaptations.”
Respondents with children aged under 18 years also were asked about child care options. Dr. Delaney and colleagues also inquired about race and ethnicity because they hypothesized that employees from underrepresented groups would likely experience the pandemic differently.
The mean age of the 5,951 (21%) faculty, staff, and trainees who completed the survey was 40 years. A majority of respondents were women, reflecting the higher proportion of women within the health system.
A majority (86%) identified as White or European American. About two-thirds of respondents (66%) were staff, 16% were faculty, and 13% were trainees.