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Healthcare workers facing widespread burnout amid pandemic, say multiple unions

Healthcare workers unions are pushing for increased staffing to avoid mass resignations.

Healthcare workers in Washington state are currently having a morale problem amid the pressure, stress and danger they have had to endure through the onset and impact of the pandemic which has over-encumbered the healthcare system.

Polling conducted among members of UFCW 21, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and Washington State Nurses Association – who collectively represent more than 71,000 nurses and other healthcare workers in Washington – has revealed 84 percent of WA healthcare workers said they feel burned out.

Additionally, 49 percent reported they’re likely to leave the healthcare profession in the next few years. Among those who said they were likely to leave, 70 percent said one of the biggest reasons was short staffing.

Some union representatives are concerned that the state will lose valuable healthcare workers as they leave to work in other regions.

“I’ve been a nurse for 26 years, and I’ve never seen so many colleagues leaving,” said Julia Barcott, a critical care nurse at Astria Toppenish Hospital and WSNA union leader. “They are retiring early, they are leaving to become travelers, and they have gone to less stressful jobs in clinics or freestanding surgical centers to get out of the pressure cooker that has become bedside care.”

The WA Safe + Healthy campaign, supported by UFCW 21, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and Washington State Nurses Association, is pushing for hospitals and clinics in Washington to implement safe staffing standards that they say will help protect healthcare workers from dangerously high patient loads.

The campaign is calling on lawmakers to pass safe staffing standards, enforce existing overtime and meal and rest break laws to ensure healthcare workers are getting their legally required break time and end the abuse of mandatory overtime, and to invest in workforce development to increase the number of healthcare workers entering the field.

“You can’t begin to address the long-term staffing shortage without first addressing the massive burnout and exhaustion healthcare workers are facing,” said Derek Roybal, a cardiovascular tech at Providence Sacred Heart in Spokane and a member of UFCW 21. “In no other industry could you expect to attract a new generation to enter the field by promising them that in a year they’ll be burned out, under-valued and overwhelmed.”


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