Which Healthcare Workers Are Most Likely to Quit Their Jobs?
- Turnover rates for healthcare workers are returning to pre-pandemic levels after massive disruptions during the first waves of coronavirus, although rates have worsened among doctors and long-term care workers, according to a study published in Health Affairs on Friday.
- Of all health care jobs, health workers and assistants had the highest turnover rates, which continued to increase during the pandemic, followed by licensed practical and vocational nurses, the study found.
- According to the study, women with children under the age of 5 had the highest likelihood of leaving their healthcare jobs, and women from historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups had higher turnover rates than white workers.
During the first wave of the pandemic, 1.5 million healthcare workers lost their jobs as doctors’ offices closed and hospitals postponed non-emergency care to free up resources and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Many of those jobs have since bounced back, although certain roles are facing a more difficult recovery. Two years into the pandemic, healthcare employers are still struggling with ongoing bottlenecks and problems recruiting and retaining staff across all roles.
In the new study, Health Affairs researchers analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s most recent population survey to determine which health care workers lost or left their jobs and who were at highest risk of leaving the workforce.
The study compares the turnover rates before the pandemic – from January 2019 to March 2020 – with the turnover rates in the first nine months of the pandemic – from April 2020 to December 2020. It also includes the rates in the following eight months – from January 2021 to October 2021
Researchers found that turnover rates peaked during the first part of the pandemic. Sales recovered for the most part over the following year, but not for nurses and physicians. Turnover rates in both professions have actually increased during the pandemic.
“This study does not suggest mass exits through any particular profession,” the study authors wrote, although increased turnover among physicians supports growing concerns about professional burnout.
A December Doximity report found that the first few months of the pandemic saw a surge in retirements from doctors who never fully recovered, with 1% of doctors leaving practice more than expected.
Continued declines in employment among long-term care workers are also notable, according to the Health Affairs study, “given their persistently high and increasing exit rates,” coupled with high demand for staff in these roles.
Women, particularly those with young children, were the most likely to leave their healthcare jobs, achieving a turnover rate of 6% for those with a child aged 5 or younger.
The healthcare workforce is dominated by women. By far the largest healthcare employment is registered nurses, followed by health workers, with more than 85% of those jobs being women, according to 2019 Census Bureau data.
“Women, particularly those with young children, have experienced the bulk of COVID-19-related job losses,” the study authors write.
“Healthcare, a field predominantly made up of women, many of whom belong to historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups, is no different,” they wrote.