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One-Year In: What’s Next for America’s Healthcare Workers

One year after COVID-19 ravaged our society and healthcare system, we surveyed our network of resilient healthcare professionals who have faced the pandemic head-on to see how they feel about the state  of healthcare today.

What we found was that while the virus may finally be slowing down and our healthcare facilities are returning back to normal, many workers are questioning their careers, the future of the industry, and what normal may look like moving forward. 

What we heard was enlightening.

  • More nurses than last year are considering leaving the healthcare industry, and from the survey findings, this is likely due to the reported decline in morale, increase in stress, and general dissatisfaction about pay.  
  • The state of mental health for nurses is facing detrimental levels, with the majority of nurses agreeing the pandemic has impacted their mental health negatively. At the same time, responses also show that nurses were left to fend for themselves when it came to seeking  help for their mental health and a significant amount felt their employer was not doing enough for their mental health and wellbeing. 
  • Nurse respondents also felt they were unfairly compensated for their work during the pandemic and are now shifting their overall priorities for what they look for in a new position or role - with pay being front and center as the number one. 

While promises of a fully vaccinated nation brings hope to our communities and healthcare professionals, we are still seeing concerning trends with how the industry is handling the pandemic, specifically when it comes to the treatment of those on our frontlines.  

One year after the pandemic began, we surveyed 1,273 nurses across all 50 states and all disciplines and points of their careers to share with us how they feel about the overall state of healthcare, their mental health and well-being, benefits and compensation, and how the government and facilities handled COVID-19. 

The Overall Future of Healthcare Workers in America is Uncertain

After a year of hardship while working on the frontlines of the virus, our survey findings show that nurses may be considering leaving the healthcare profession altogether. Other findings revealed morale at hospitals and staffing issues pose a major issue when it comes to healthcare professional's overall outlook on their futures as well as the industry as a whole. 

  • 43% of respondents are considering leaving the healthcare profession in 2021, and an opposing 56% are staying in healthcare field
  • Comparatively, when asked the same question last year, 80% of respondents noted that they are likely to continue working in healthcare post-COVID-19. 
  • When taking a look at tenure, 40% among the least experienced nurses surveyed versus 46% among those with 10 to 19 years of experience we’re considering leaving. 
  • Seen from the perspective of age groups, those younger than 40  (44%) or above 59  (45%) had the highest rates of nurses that  are considering leaving.
  • Nearly three-fourths (72%) report hospital morale has gotten worse in their hospital or health care facility since this time last year
  • 87% of respondents shared that their hospitals or facilities are still, on average, short staffed 
  • 53% of healthcare workers surveyed don’t feel optimistic about the future of healthcare in the U.S. (only 20% felt optimistic)

The Mental Health State of Frontline Workers is Looking Glass Half-Empty 

As we many deal with the aftermath of a chaotic year, questions have risen on how to support those in healthcare who may be suffering from mental health issues following a traumatic year of treating patients during COVID-19. Our survey findings show that nurses are more stressed than ever and are not getting the support they need. 

  • Two-thirds (64%) of respondents feel more stressed at their job since this time last year
    • Last  year, nearly 80% of respondents feel more stressed in their day-to-day job since the COVID-19 crisis elevated
  • Over the course of COVID-19, 39% of nurses shared they sought extra support on their own for their mental health and wellbeing
  • 44% of respondents strongly disagree that their employer is doing enough to support their mental health and wellbeing
  • 83% felt their mental health has been impacted after working in the healthcare field during COVID-19 this past year, with 36% feeling significantly impacted

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Our ICU Workers Saw the Worst of it During the Pandemic

ICU nurses on the frontlines were faced with uncertainty this past year, from new treatment procedures, lack of proper PPE, and putting themselves and their loved ones at risk of sickness. While this group had the highest number of reported vaccinations, the scored lowest  when it came to morale and appetite to remain in their respective fields. 

  • Morale at hospitals was rated far worse by ICU workers (77% thought it’d worsened) than non-ICU (71%)
  • 48% of ICU workers are considering leaving the healthcare profession in 2021, versus 40% amongst non-ICU
  • 69% ICU workers have been vaccinated versus 59% of non-ICU nurses


Our Healthcare Workers Aren’t Getting the Compensation They Deserve 

While headlines of increased hazard pay were splayed across the media, this was not true for many healthcare professionals that faced the pandemic head-on. Overall, nurses we’re not satisfied with their compensation and are now changing their priorities when it comes to looking for a new job or career. 

  • 66% of surveyed nurses rank pay as the most important attribute they plan to look for in a job/career in the future 
  • 78% of respondents said their overall priorities changed in what they will like for in a job/assignment in the future
  • Nearly one-third of respondents are being compensated less this year than last year (32%), while nearly half report (48%) that their hours have increased in 2021 and nearly a quarter (21%) are working 10-15 hours of overtime per week
  • Over one-third (36%) of respondents were extremely dissatisfied with their compensation during the COVID-19 crisis

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Frontline Workers All Agree, Our Government Response Needs to be Better

Healthcare workers show some concern with how the government continues to handle the pandemic but they have  hope under the new administration. 

  • A quarter of respondents are extremely dissatisfied with the state government’s handling of reopening timelines and loosening of restrictions (25%  extremely dissatisfied vs. 4% were extremely satisfied)
  • 40% of respondents feel more confident in the COVID-19 response under the Biden Administration

Seeing Beyond the Negativity: How Vivian Plans to Help

We know some of these findings may not leave you feeling hopeful about the state of the healthcare industry, but Vivian Health is taking strides and implementing new programs to empower healthcare professionals nationwide to find jobs they love and feel passionate about. From transparency for benefits and pay to unbiased employer reviews, intelligent job matching and more, Vivian is hoping to provide more stability and fulfillment for those looking for roles in the healthcare industry.

These findings continue to help us, and the rest of the industry, improve healthcare hiring, and advocate for our healthcare workers. 

Request the Full Report

Annually, we gather data from the healthcare community in order to better understand the state of healthcare. Request the full report to receive it via email.

Parth Bhakta

Parth Bhakta

Parth is the CEO & Founder of Vivian Health

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