Health Watch USA Logo 2022 Health Watch USA Worker Safety Conference


The Normalization of Workarounds in Healthcare During COVID-19
Christine Pontus, RN and Jeannie Cimiotti, PhD, RN moderated a panel presentation and discussion regarding the normalization of deviance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Cimiotti stressed that the current average tenure of nurses is only 2.5 years and that the median time nurses are leaving the profession is 2 years. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics there was a 4000% increase in frontline worker illness in 2000 compared to 2019. There were days during the pandemic that some facilities were losing 4 to 5 nurses a day. Needed replacements were often inexperienced newly graduated nurses. There were too few experienced nurses still working in hospitals. Exacerbating the situation, some facilities furloughed staff at the beginning of the pandemic and these nurses often left the region, going to hospitals in hard hit COVID-19 areas where they were offered salaries up to $10,000 a week. A just-in-time supply chain and a healthcare system which runs on maximum efficiency rather than redundancy was ill equipped to compensate for the large surge in COVID-19 patients. Staffing ratios were relaxed, makeshift ICUs were created and staffed with inexperienced personnel who often worked long hours outside their realm of experience. There was little comradery and psychological support. Staff often suffered from PSTD and moral injury. Instead of learning the lessons taught by the pandemic, some facilities are continuing the cost-efficient lean staffing policies and high patient-to-nurse ratios, giving rise to an unhealthy work environment which exposes patients to undue risks. Health Watch USA(sm) Webinar, Frontline Worker Safety in the Age of COVID-19: A Global Perspective. Sept. 14, 2022
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