COVID-19 career concerns
Overall, 1,061 respondents (21%) “moderately or very seriously” considered leaving the workforce and 1,505 (30%) considered reducing hours. Respondents who were younger, married, a member of an underrepresented racial/ethnic group, and worked in a clinical setting were more likely to consider leaving the workforce.
The survey showed 27% felt their productivity increased whereas 39% believed their productivity decreased.
Of the 2,412 survey participants with children aged 18 years or younger, 66% reported that they did not have child care fully available.
“Failure to address and provide for child care has long been one of the many significant deficits in U.S. health care systems,” said Dr. Bernstein, lead author of a March 2021 report evaluating staff emotional support at Montefiore Medical Center during the pandemic in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.
Furthermore, 47% were “moderately or very seriously worried” about COVID-19 impacting their career development.
Women trainees were significantly more likely than male counterparts to consider leaving the workforce and reducing their work hours. Women in a faculty or trainee role were also more likely to worry about COVID-19’s impact on their career, compared with men, and compared with women in staff positions.
“It was disheartening to have our data support the gender and racial/ethnic disparity that has been highlighted in the media during the pandemic,” Dr. Delaney said. “Women and in some cases racial/ethnic groups that are underrepresented in medicine were most likely to consider leaving the workforce, reducing hours, and were worried about their career development.
“It is critical that we strategically address these important disparities,” she said.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the medical specialties now considered highest risk for burnout: critical care physicians ranked first in the report, followed by rheumatologists and infectious disease specialists.
“Given the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on employees of health systems, institutions must find ways to support their employees, both in terms of workplace cultural adaptations and assistance with familial responsibilities,” the researchers noted.
Telecommuting policies, scheduling flexibility, and expanding employee support programs are potential solutions. Institutional policies also could address the educational and direct care needs of employee children.
Limitations of the study include its generalizability beyond employees of University of Utah Health. Also, respondents included a lower proportion of racial and ethnic groups, compared with national figures, “although this is mostly accounted for by the overall low population of such groups in the state of Utah,” the researchers added.
“Our results suggest that respondents were struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the researchers noted. “As a result, even after investing substantial amounts of time in years of training, many were considering leaving the workforce because of stress and caregiving responsibilities related to the pandemic.”
The Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Endowed Chair supported the work with a financial award to Dr. Fagerlin. Dr. Delaney and Dr. Bernstein disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
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