For months from our respective vantage points in healthcare, we have been thinking about the reason why front-line workers leave their jobs. According to a study published in October, 1 in 5 healthcare professionals have resigned or retired – and another 20% are considering leaving healthcare altogether. Early in the new year, we think it’s time to do something about it.
When employers evaluate how to protect, retain and support healthcare professionals, a serious issue that needs to be addressed is unpaid healthcare responsibilities, which more than double the mental consequences for working healthcare providers (or “dual-serving” healthcare providers). ARCHANGELS data show that 43% of adults across the United States work as an unpaid caregiver – and we believe they need more resources from employers to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
An unpaid caregiver is a parent, guardian or person who takes care of someone over the age of 18, such as an aging parent or spouse. According to ARCHANGEL’s data, many unpaid caregivers do not recognize their role – in their heads they are “just a son” or “a wife”. We must acknowledge that many of our paid care staff are also unpaid caregivers and they neglect to realize the dual effect of these roles. As a result, they may deny their own feelings of anxiety, depression, and exhaustion.
The reality is that it is intense to take care of someone at home, at work or in your community and can affect all aspects of our lives, including our willingness and ability to continue working.
Last summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study that revealed that 70% of all caregivers reported at least one negative symptom of mental health, including anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts. For those caregivers who fall into the “sandwich generation” —which cares for children as well as an adult — an astonishing 52% report recent serious suicidal thoughts. Can you imagine being responsible for patient care during a deadly pandemic and still take care of other Healthcare professionals need a break and employers and the wider community can intervene to help.
Recognizing these barriers for working caregivers – especially frontline workers – the Henry Ford Health System established the award-winning CARE program that gives all employees access to resources that help paid and unpaid caregivers. Resources are available for mental and behavioral health, family challenges, financial pressures and more.
With covid-19’s impact on the workforce, we believe that programs like these need to be scaled and expanded. We gave our employees the opportunity to take the ARCHANGELS Caregiver Intensity Index and found that almost 1 in 3 (31%) received points “in minus” or with “high intensity”. ARCHANGEL’s data also showed that offering supportive programs that focus on the caregiver’s health and well-being is an important tool in the fight against burnout. If more programs were in place for employees to assess their caregiver intensity and easily access user-friendly support, perhaps more working care staff could meet their own mental health needs while supporting their loved ones, colleagues and patients.
With the rise of omicron and the astonishing shortage of labor, it is now time for employers to step up and do more to support unpaid carers, especially dual-duty carers like those working in healthcare. If more resources are available that realize the intensity and complexity of employees – who in many cases are working caregivers – we have a chance to improve the work-life balance and help individuals comfortably stay in their jobs at a time when they are most needed. .