The great resignation in healthcare has been years in the making — COVID-19 just sped up the problem.
Many healthcare workers left the industry during the pandemic to escape harsh conditions and growing responsibilities. Each worker that left meant another worker that had to pick up the slack. Burnout became synonymous with the job title "hospital worker," whether that worker was a nurse, paramedic or custodian.
A job vacancy rate of roughly 17 percent persists at Michigan hospitals, leading to about 1,300 fewer patient beds available for the sick across the state compared to last year.
"The reality is we knew even before the pandemic that we would have many people leaving the field," said Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. "Demographics aren't on our side, and we're simply not training enough nurses, doctors, pharmacists, whatever to replace all those retiring in the coming years."
Roughly one in five healthcare workers left or retired from the field between the start of the pandemic in 2020 and November 2021, according to a survey from research company Morning Consult. The U.S. faces a projected shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians within 12 years, according to a report released in June 2021 by the Association of American Medical Colleges. A similar story plays out for nurses, medical assistants and so on.
In an attempt to bolster the workforce without a pipeline for backfilling the jobs, local hospitals are turning inward and finding innovative — and sometimes obvious — ways to implement technology and create a pool of available workers seeking alternatives to full-time shifts.