Pandemic burnout growing among frontline healthcare workers
Pandemic burnout among frontline healthcare workers is growing, even pushing some to find new careers.
Many nurses and healthcare workers across Ontario say it's not just COVID-19 positive patients that are the cause for exhaustion, but all of the protocols and unknowns as well.
"We have to act like everyone does, so it's the additional tasks of screening everybody, swabbing everyone, gowning," said Heidi Holmes, a nurse at Guelph General Hospital and nursing professor at Conestoga College.
Holmes said more nurses are feeling sick "physically and mentally" because of the burnout.
The issue isn’t just in hospitals – long-term care homes are also struggling to recruit.
"We have two homes in Kitchener and two homes in London and I would say that we are always hiring," said Joy Birch, COO of Highview Residences.
Waterloo Region's top doctor acknowledged the struggle to staff is not an isolated one.
"These are system challenges that have been exacerbated by the length of the pandemic," Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said at Friday's weekly COVID-19 briefing. "We do encourage our workers to take breaks and to put in place systems for back up."
Hospitals across southwestern Ontario have initiated those backup systems.
CTV News spoke to several nurses – who did not want to speak publicly for fear of their jobs – who said burnout and increased sick calls mean some nurses are being transferred to work in wards they're not specifically trained for.
For some, the burnout is pushing them toward private healthcare or other industries altogether.
"There are some estimates that 40 per cent of the workforce may leave in the next couple of years," said Michelle Heyer, director of seniors care at Conestoga College.
Heyer said although a mass exodus from the industry is possible, there is hope for the future. The college saw more applications for its nursing program this year than any other.
"Where the challenge is, is that they're not overnight," she said. "We can train more nurses to help with the nursing shortage but that can take four years in a nursing program to bring nurses up to the educational level they need to practice safely."