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Amid health care’s big quit, burnt-out workers seek flexibility and passion

The Great Resignation – the mass exodus of dissatisfied workers – has hit few industries harder than healthcare. According to some reports, the field has lost around 20% of its workforce, 30% of them nurses.

This year alone, nearly 1.7 million people quit their jobs in the healthcare industry, which equates to almost 3% of the healthcare workforce each month, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And a recent survey of 1,000 healthcare professionals showed that 28% left their jobs because of burnout.

These departures not only create current and future staff shortages, but raise another question: where are all these highly skilled workers going?

Many health care workers who have quit take up other health care jobs, albeit sometimes under significantly different circumstances.

Lauren Berlin, RN, 45, was a nurse in Wisconsin and Florida for 21 years, most recently employed as director of nursing for long-term care facilities. In this role, she says she was expected to be available anytime, every day of the year.

“My phone was never off,” she said. “I was exhausted. I loved bedside nursing, but desperately needed work-life balance.

Berlin quit her full-time job and is now taking shifts through CareRev, a recruiting app that allows clinicians to sign up for shifts online based on their schedule, preferences, and their availability.

This flexibility allows Berlin to focus on its other passion: coaching athletics in downtown Milwaukee.

“If your personal schedule is your priority, you schedule your shifts around your personal schedule… Want to take a vacation? Go ahead, you don’t need to ask anyone,” Berlin said. “I work for myself, on my own terms.”

According to Will Patterson, CEO and founder of CareRev, Berlin reflects a growing trend among clinicians.

“Today’s worker expects greater flexibility. They expect to have more freedom in when they work and for whom,” Patterson said. “Healthcare professionals are no exception. »

A former trauma nurse, Patterson saw firsthand the impact of inflexible hospital planning, which could leave the intensive care unit short-staffed when patient volumes peaked.

“When you take responsibility for more lives than you can reasonably handle – for days at a time – you quickly burn out,” he said. “Now, after more than two years of battling the pandemic, that burnout is at an all time high. And as the shortage of nurses worsens, that burnout will only continue to accelerate.

According to Patterson, many burnt-out clinicians haven’t lost their passion for healthcare, they just want more autonomy and work-life balance.

The lack of work-life balance prompted Jill Bowen, 45, to quit her job as director of physiotherapy in the home healthcare industry. Her productivity was measured by the number of visits made without credit for all the time she had to spend on phone calls, documentation and planning.

“Payment, regulations and all the bureaucracy is the most stressful part of the job,” Bowen said. “When an agency is driven by profitability, marketing promises, or non-compliant vendor demands, clinicians are forced into compliance and patient care suffers.”

Now Bowen works as an implementation consultant at Axxess, a software company that serves home health agencies. She encourages other clinicians to recognize and use their transferable skills.

There are many jobs available for people with the skills developed in healthcare,” Bowen said. “We have skills that can be transferred to other professional areas, such as being organized, communicating effectively and being a team player.”

Some burnt-out workers use their transferable skills to start their own businesses.

Taylor Bonacolta, 28, of Fort Myers, Fla., quit her job as a registered nurse in a pediatric intensive care unit a year ago due to the stress of the pandemic combined with having two young children. Instead of finding another job, Bonacolta started June and Lily, a business supporting new mothers.

“If there are other healthcare workers who are considering quitting, I would remind them that there are so many different ways to help others as nurses,” Bonacolta said.

The pandemic has also prompted Jackie Tassiello, 34, to rethink his career. A licensed and board-certified Art Therapist of New Jersey, Tassiello worked for nearly four years in the Pediatric Cancer Department at NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital. Before the pandemic, she often carried 25 children a day, all with cancer, blood disorders or gastrointestinal illnesses.

During the pandemic, Tassiello has been redeployed to provide emotional support and meet the basic needs of frontline medical staff working in Covid-19 units. She said she remembered seeing staff in hazmat suits responding to a patient in distress and thinking, “That could be me; it could be anyone I love.

These experiences changed Tassiello’s own priorities.

“I decided I wanted to cut back to be more present. I also needed time off to recalibrate and heal,” she said.

Now running his own psychotherapy practice, Tassiello has some advice for healthcare organizations hoping to retain staff: “Hospitals need to solve the heart problems, not with gift cards and lunches,” she stated. “There are systemic issues that no amount of bonus money can fix.”

Some healthcare workers abandon clinical work altogether and turn to creative pursuits.

Cari Garcia, LCSW, 38, recently worked as a psychiatric emergency social worker at a major Florida hospital. She says she quit because of a toxic work environment, unsupportive administration, verbally and physically abusive patients, and a salary that didn’t justify the level of stress she had to endure.

Garcia turned a food blog she ran as a hobby for ten years into her main source of income and now says she makes more money than she would as a social worker. Garcia encourages other healthcare workers who are considering quitting the plunge.

“As soon as you’re on the other side, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner,” she said. “I sleep better, I can be there for my family and my quality of life is at its best.”

The Great Resignation is not just about clinicians. Christopher K. Lee, MPH, 31, had worked in healthcare management for more than a decade. Last month, he resigned from his senior executive position at UCLA Health after being required to be in the office every day since October 2021.

“I tried to make it work, but in March I decided I couldn’t do it anymore,” Lee said. “Like many people, during the pandemic, I thought about my priorities and spending more than 3 hours commuting a day was no longer what I envisioned for my life.”

Now Lee says he’s writing a book about professional networking and doing advocacy work in the area of ​​adolescent and young adult mental health, projects he’s always wanted. do “one day”.

Lee said, “In the shadow of the pandemic, I decided: if I don’t do them now, what if I never have a chance?”

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