A new survey has shown that at least one in five healthcare providers are considering leaving the workforce due to the challenges of working during the pandemic.

The survey, published online last week in JAMA Network Open, also found that nearly 30% of them are considering cutting back on their working hours.

Lead author Dr. Rebecca Delaney told Medscape Medical News, “There are a substantial number of employees and trainees who are experiencing major stress and work disruptions because of the pandemic.”

“It is particularly alarming that people who have spent 5 or more years in training for their specialty are struggling with their work, so much so that they have even considered leaving the workforce or reducing their hours,” she added. “Being a caregiver adds another layer of difficulty for faculty, staff, and trainees who are trying to manage work and childcare.”

Dr. Carol Bernstein of Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine told Medscape, “This looks like an excellent survey. I do not think it provides particularly new information as these challenges in the workplace, especially for women during COVID, have been well documented in the media and the medical literature to date.”

“That said, to the extent that data helps drive solutions, I would hope that information such as this would be considered as strong further evidence that health care systems must pay close attention to the wellbeing of the workforce,” she added.

At the beginning of the pandemic, more than 40% of the American workforce were rapidly transitioned to working from home, which especially placed a burden on those who were at academic medical centers and women as well.

The survey investigators noted, “Women comprise 74.9% of hospital employees, many of whom are essential clinical workers. The extent of the needs and difficulties for these workers during the pandemic remain largely unknown.”

The team surveyed 5,000 clinicians, of which 1061 respondents “moderately or very seriously” considered leaving the workforce and 1505 considered reducing their working hours. In addition, nearly 47% were “moderately or very seriously worried” about the pandemic affecting their career development.

Women healthcare providers were significantly more to consider leaving the workforce and reducing their work hours compared to men.

Dr. Delaney said, “It was disheartening to have our data support the gender and racial/ethnic disparity that has been highlighted in the media during the pandemic. Women and in some cases racial/ethnic groups that are underrepresented in medicine were most likely to consider leaving the workforce, reducing hours, and were worried about their career development.”

“It is critical that we strategically address these important disparities,” she added.

The researchers explained, “Given the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on employees of health systems, institutions must find ways to support their employees, both in terms of workplace cultural adaptations and assistance with familial responsibilities.” “Our results suggest that respondents were struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic,” they added. “As a result, even after investing substantial amounts of time in years of training, many were considering leaving the workforce because of stress and caregiving responsibilities related to the pandemic.”