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Mind the Gap: Repairing the US Healthcare Workforce

September 28, 2021 | Aya Wellness , Workforce Solutions

One quote from research recently commissioned by Aya Healthcare sums up the pervasive nurse burnout we encountered, “Every COVID shift is just surviving. You’re walking out of there feeling drained, yet you also feel like, ‘Did I do anything at all?”

We reached out to a group of nurses (new travel nurses, veteran travel nurses and staff nurses) to really understand how fighting this pandemic is affecting them.As a travel nurse agency that deployed thousands of clinicians to all corners of our nation, we feel a keen responsibility to take care of our healthcare heroes. It’s especially heartbreaking — and galvanizing — to hear that some of our travel nurses don’t believe they’re making a difference.

Because we know how critical nurses and other healthcare workers are to this fight. Aya Healthcare heroes have relieved staff at over 4,000 facilities. They’ve filled over 100,000 potential gaps in care. They’ve saved countless lives.

Our healthcare workforce has the monumental task of caring for communities during this unprecedented time. While working tirelessly to effectively care for patients, we know that heroism is taking a toll. They deserve our support.

That’s why we commissioned a study to delve into the impact the pandemic has had on our healthcare workforce. We wanted to know exactly what was contributing to nurse burnout, to understand nurse burnout symptoms and to help hospitals with nurse burnout prevention.

We wanted to hear from nurses, both permanent staff and travelers, on their lived experiences and how those experiences influence their career choices.

So, we asked…

  • What impact has the pandemic had on your work environment?
  • How has the pandemic altered your career path?
  • What factors influence your career decisions?

And we found…

The pandemic has dramatically contributed to nurse burnout. For many, happiness levels have plummeted.

  • Veteran traveler happiness is down 27%.
  • New traveler happiness is down 3%.
  • Staff nurse happiness is down 21%.

Clearly, the emotional impact of the pandemic is extensive, and nurses need psychological support.

What can we do?

We can offer insights on effective strategies to avoid nurse burnout. Below are the research findings, recommendations and our plans to create meaningful change.

Key findings from the report include:

  • COVID-19 is driving major shifts in the U.S. nursing workforce composition.
  • Happiness levels and stress levels are primary influencers on career decisions.
  • The emotional and physical impacts of the pandemic are extensive.
  • Nurses are seeking support from hospital management.

Nurses are leaving bedside nursing, or the profession altogether. This isn’t sustainable for our healthcare system. It’s especially alarming because we entered the pandemic with a nursing shortage, and nurses have been the biggest responders to fighting COVID-19. The case for effective nurse retention strategies has never been more important.

Recommendations to support our post-pandemic workforce include:

  • Heal and advance mental well-being first and foremost with targeted interventions.
  • Understand each employee’s current happiness and stress levels to predict likelihood to remain employed in the field.
  • Address perceptions and expectations for financial compensation.
  • Finally, connect the work back to the “why.”

Helping people is the primary motivator for many nurses. As one respondent explained, “Helping people is why I became a nurse, to comfort them, make them less scared and put a smile on their face.”

Healthcare facilities need to create an environment in which nurses and other healthcare providers feel that they are making a difference. Aya’s clinical leaders can help with actionable solutions to heal and advance the workforce.

Mind the Gap: Repairing the US Healthcare: Download the eBook or Summary Report now.

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