Since the beginning of the pandemic, each member of our healthcare system has been on the front lines providing life-saving treatments and care to their patients. Due to the sheer influx of COVID cases in the last three years, it is imperative to support healthcare workers and develop resources to promote their well-being.
The American Hospital Association, or AHA, created various programs to help support the healthcare workforce. Their programs include child care, transportation, as well as mental and physical health support. In Virginia, the program enabled student nurses to support the current workforce due to the implementation of a clinical education model in the nursing school. The addition of student nurses in the educational model addressed the crucial nurse shortage during the pandemic. Since the education models have been beneficial, hospitals across the U.S are now developing new team-based care models. The healthcare models allow various disciplines of healthcare workers to provide direct patient care and manage current medical and social needs.
The pandemic had an immense toll on the mental health of healthcare workers. Multiple healthcare workers expressed the emotional and physical stresses that resulted from taking care of COVID patients. Specifically, they reported having experienced stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and burnout. Due to the constant experiences of stress, healthcare workers reported difficulty sleeping, headaches, and increased alcohol or drug use. These effects are detrimental to their ability to treat patients effectively. To combat this issue, Congress has introduced the American Rescue Plan Act, which aims to create suicide-prevention programs and mental health and substance use disorder training programs.
The nursing shortage has been detrimental to hospitals nationwide since nurses are a critical part of the healthcare system. By the end of 2022, an estimated 500,000 will leave the workforce, thus, bringing the total nursing shortage to 1.1 million! Additionally, the lack of available clinical training sites and classrooms has been causing nursing schools to turn away more than 80,000 nursing school applicants.
To prevent these issues in the future, the government proposes a series of solutions that would diversify and revitalize the healthcare workforce. These solutions include boosting support for nursing schools, expediting visas for foreign healthcare workers, providing scholarships and loan forgiveness as well as the flexibility to address the mental health needs of the healthcare workforce. These changes to our healthcare system will not only provide physical and mental health support for the current workforce but also prepare it for future crises.
Thank you for reading,
“AHA Letter Re: Challenges Facing America's Health Care Workforce as the U.S. Enters Third Year of Covid-19 Pandemic: AHA.” American Hospital Association, https://www.aha.org/lettercomment/2022-03-01-aha-provides-information-congress-re-challenges-facing-americas-health.