Majority of emergency department staff are burnt-out, stressed, and exhausted even before a third wave

A massive 73% of staff said workforce pressures in their Emergency Department impacted patient safety even before the pandemic.

Matt Bodell
13 July 2021
stretcher in corridor

A quarter of all ED staff are considering taking a career break or sabbatical.

Three in every five emergency department (ED) workers say they are burnt-out, stressed, and exhausted as the third wave of the pandemic starts to hit.

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A workforce survey by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) found that 59% of staff reported burnout during the second wave of the pandemic and now say their levels of stress and exhaustion are higher than normal.

In the next two years, 50% of workers admit considering reducing their working hours and 26% are considering taking a career break or sabbatical.

A massive 73% of staff said workforce pressures in their Emergency Department impacted patient safety even before the pandemic.

Unsintainable.

The survey results come just as the number of COVID-19 cases start to rise again in an expected third wave.

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Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the RCEM, said; “The fact that half of Emergency Medicine staff are considering reducing their hours in the near future and over one quarter are considering taking a career break, is deeply worrying.

“Emergency Medicine has always been an exciting yet challenging career, but the intensity of the pandemic and the current severity of the pressures has exacerbated these challenges vastly and increased burnout and exhaustion among staff, and ultimately discouraged existing staff from continuing their career in the specialty.”

“This is not sustainable for staff, and if Emergency Departments must be the safety-net of the system and the place where people go when they have nowhere else to seek treatment, we must be staffed appropriately to deal with that.”

Helping those who help the sick.

The report concludes “It is the resilience of staff working in EDs that makes Emergency Medicine such an incredible specialty, and this has been taken advantage of in recent years and is now stretched to the limit. RCEM’s motto is ‘we always help the sick’. To improve patient care, now more than ever, it is vital we help those who help the sick. ”

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The RCM has made several recommendations alongside the publication of its report.

It recommends that as nursing staff “play an essential role” the national shortage should be “urgently addressed” and the flexibility that has been built into medical training must be made available to all staff delivering care in Emergency Departments.

Allied Health Professional Roles (AHP) should also be encouraged to play complementary roles within the emergency department.

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