Nurses and other healthcare workers are leaving the profession in record numbers. And it’s not just a pandemic phenomenon, according to a report released Thursday by the American Federation of Teachers.
The AFT represents nurses and other health professionals; teachers; paraprofessionals and school staff; higher education teachers and staff; local, state and federal government employees; and early childhood educators.
“Health professionals knew long before COVID-19[feminine] that working conditions had been deteriorating for years,” AFT Chairman Randi Weingarten said in a statement. statement. “Then came the pandemic. For nearly three years, they faced unprecedented challenges, while for-profit institutions made record profits.”
In February 2022, a poll showed that 23% of healthcare workers were willing to quit, according to the report.
Weingarten said the issue of understaffing, which has created much of the burnout and dissatisfaction, can be addressed, but action must be taken by the facilities themselves. One step he suggested is to allow health care workers a voice in the process and involve them in the day-to-day running of the facilities where they work, particularly with regard to safety.
“When the people providing care are seen, heard and respected, the patients receiving care fare better too,” Weingarten said.
Other strategies suggested by the union to stimulate the pool of nurses and other health professionals:
- Improve recruitment (and workforce diversity) through high school career and technical education programs, apprenticeships, and nursing transition programs.
- Expand targeted financial aid and loan repayment programs, including the National Health Service Corps and the Nurse Faculty Loan Program.
- Enact federal and state laws mandating safe staffing ratios for the entire care team, including safe staffing requirements in government regulations and negotiating safe staffing levels in collective agreements.
- Prohibit mandatory overtime through a broad approach that includes federal and state laws, regulations, and collective agreements.
- Encourage Congress to pass the Federal Workplace Violence Prevention Act for Health and Human Services Workers and work with state legislatures on better safety protections.
- Lobby for pandemic protections in federal law, such as a standard from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and a rule of emergency preparedness from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
- Advocate for funding and programs to support the mental health of health professionals.
- Work at the federal and state levels to increase oversight of healthcare mergers and acquisitions, including their effects on care.
- Make shared governance part of the collective bargaining agreement, such as the partnership between Kaiser Permanente and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals and other unions.
- Defend the right of health care workers to form unions and fight anti-union tactics by employers.