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Monday, April 4, 2022

Pushed to Their Limits, 1 in 5 Physicians Intends to Leave Practice

Abbasi J.
JAMA. Published online March 30, 2022.

Here is an excerpt:

Worsening staffing issues are now the biggest stressor for clinicians. Health care worker shortages, especially in rural and otherwise underserved areas of the country, have reached critical and unsustainable levels, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

“The evidence shows that health workers have been leaving the workforce at an alarming rate over the past 2 years,” Thomas R. Cunningham, PhD, a senior behavioral scientist at NIOSH, wrote in a statement emailed to JAMA.

In the absence of national data, Etz says the Green Center data point to a meaningful reduction in the primary care workforce during the pandemic. In the February 2022 survey, 62% of 847 clinicians had personal knowledge of other primary care clinicians who retired early or quit during the pandemic and 29% knew of practices that had closed up shop. That’s on top of a preexisting shortage of general and family medicine physicians. “I think we have a platform that is collapsed, and we haven’t recognized it yet,” Etz said.

In fact, surveys indicate that a “great clinician resignation” lies ahead. A quarter of clinicians said they planned to leave primary care within 3 years in Etz’s February survey. The Coping With COVID study predicts a more widespread clinician exodus: in the pandemic’s first year, 23.8% of the more than 9000 physicians from various disciplines in the study and 40% of 2301 nurses planned to exit their practice in the next 2 years. (The Coping With COVID study was funded by the American Medical Association, the publisher of JAMA.)

A lesson that’s been underscored during the pandemic is that physician wellness has a lot to do with other health workers’ satisfaction. “The ‘great resignation’ is affecting a lot of our staff, who don’t feel necessarily cared for by their organizations,” Linzer said. “The staff are leaving, which leaves the physicians to do more nonphysician work. So really, in order to solve this, we need to pay attention to all of our health care workers.”

Nurses who said they intended to leave their positions within 6 months cited 3 main drivers in an American Nurses Foundation survey: work negatively affecting their health and well-being, insufficient staffing, and a lack of employer support during the pandemic.

“Health care is a team sport,” L. Casey Chosewood, MD, MPH, director of the NIOSH Office for Total Worker Health, wrote in the agency’s emailed statement. “When nurses and other support personnel are under tremendous strain or not able to perform at optimal levels, or when staffing is inadequate, the impact flows both upstream to physicians who then face a heavier workload and loss of efficiency, and downstream impacting patient care and treatment outcomes.”