The United States Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. Vice Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service, has released an advisory titled “Addressing Health Worker Burnout” to address the unprecedented problem of health worker burnout as result of the public health emergency related to COVID-19.
The Surgeon General writes in his introduction:
“As we transition towards recovery, we have a moral obligation to address the long-standing crisis of burnout, exhaustion, and moral distress across the health community. We owe health workers far more than our gratitude. We owe them an urgent debt of action….We can choose to make this moment a collective commitment to care for those who have always cared for us. When health workers look ahead, they should see a future where their dedication isn’t taken for granted, and where their health, safety, and well-being is as much a priority as the well-being of the people and communities in their care.”
The delivery of health care by respiratory therapists over the past couple of years has been severely impacted by worker burnout, staffing shortages, and overwhelming patient caseloads. The AARC is proud of the respiratory care workforce who put their own lives in jeopardy every day to save the lives of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, and we are cognizant of the overwhelming effects that have impacted their own mental and physical health.
The Advisory provides an overview of the issues, what is needed to improve and prepare for the future, and how public and private stakeholders and community partners can tackle the causes of health worker burnout and rebuilding trust. We encourage respiratory therapists to read the document and appreciate that they are valued for their strength and resilience.
While the AARC has provided several webinars over the past couple of years that focused on mental health issues that acknowledge the toll and burnout experienced by the profession, including our keynote speaker at last year’s Congress who addressed the issues of stress and burnout, we know it is not enough. We realize it is a first step in addressing the overall impact the pandemic has had on the lives, families, and friends of our respiratory care workforce. Given the information and resources for health care organizations provided in the Surgeon General’s advisory, the AARC is exploring additional avenues we can take to reduce the burden felt by so many. We will keep our members informed of our actions through future AARC Newsroom articles.
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