In 2022 alone according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 1.7 million individuals, or around 3% of the healthcare workforce quit their jobs each month.
Diversity and Inclusion at the workplace have gained considerably more importance across all sectors and industries worldwide in recent times. While diversity refers to various differences including ethnicity, race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, ability, and others, inclusion refers to creating an environment where all employees feel valued, respected, and supported, regardless of their differences. In combination, diversity and inclusion enables creating a workplace culture that embraces individual differences, encourages all individuals aboard to contribute their unique perspectives and talents to success of the organization, and promotes fairness and equity.
Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion or DEI at the workplace, as indicated by various recent studies and surveys, not only improves the bottom line for businesses, but also enhances health, happiness, and progress of society as a whole and for each individual. Lack of equality and inclusion, and unethical behavior by management can have adverse effects on productivity, revenue, brand image, leave workers feeling disrespected or neglected, and lead to development and assumption of a toxic workplace from which employees will seek to flee.
It is also noteworthy however, to learn that the COVID-19 pandemic did not herald the ‘Great Resignation’, but merely added momentum to a mass exodus that had been initiated a decade prior and was ongoing at a steady pace. The timing of the pandemic and the ripple effects of the ‘Great Resignation of 2021’ further shunted the trend into 2022, during which record numbers of individuals, including sizable numbers of healthcare professionals and workers, had already voluntarily resigned from their jobs for various reasons.
While a number of factors are currently being attributed to this upheaval, experts position workplace issues, low pay, high or unrealistic expectations from management, favoritism, stagnation, inequality, no work-life balance, precarious nature of their employment that offered no job security, lack of certain policies and employee-friendly environment, desire for more fulfilment, or just a better place to work as root causes for employees to move out. Other factors are not included in this article such as the reasons and strategies, or ‘need of the hour moves’ employers and organizations made to downsize, terminate, or remove employees from workforce.
During the pandemic, the occupational hazards and risks were pertinently much higher for professionals in the healthcare sector, as these individuals continued working despite risk of infection and death. Continuous waves of emotional stress, ebbing morale as the death toll rose steadily, continuous potential exposure to dangerous pathogens, long and strenuous working hours, fatigue, psychological distress, occupational burnout, stigma, and physical and psychological violence were among the various challenges over a year-long period in this sector. COVID-19 did not discriminate on the basis of geographic region, gender, race, or ethnicity, and neither on the basis of wealth, position, designation, or social standing and nature of work.
The pandemic persisted relentlessly and even added a sizable number of healthcare workers to the death toll. According to World Health Organization (WHO), somewhere between 80,000 and 180,000 healthcare workers are estimated to have died worldwide from COVID-19 during the period starting January 2020 and May 2021. This may or may not have been a victory for many workers on the frontline during those times and the sector also lost a chunk of its workforce to the resignation trend.
According to some reports in May 2022, an estimated 20% of healthcare workforce, including 30% of nurses were estimated to have quit their jobs during the great resignation. In 2022 alone according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 1.7 million individuals, or around 3% of the healthcare workforce quit their jobs each month. A survey across 1,000 healthcare professionals during that period indicated that 28% cited burnout as a key reason for quitting.
There has been significant incline in deployment of initiatives such as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) post the COVID-19 pandemic and disruptions, insecurity, and personal losses as well as losses on the professional front that came along in its wake. Such initiatives continue to gain steady traction across corporates, and even in the healthcare sector.
According to some comparison studies and surveys, the chaotic scenarios across the corporate sector and among large, medium, and small companies, and the large-scale downsizing, terminations, resignations, and declining economic conditions that were brought along by the prolonged lockdowns has substantial impact of the pandemic also had negative impact on healthcare professionals and workers worldwide. Having served through the relentless pandemic and faced situations never seen before, a number of healthcare professionals were genuinely dedicated and devoted to their service to humankind, but had felt the brunt of work pressure, inequality, and favoritism, among others. This was similar to the situation many in the corporate sector had faced earlier, and it was assumed that the same fate awaited many in the healthcare sector as well.
Surveys post the pandemic have indicated that it is equally important to include workers across all types of jobs and fields and employment as part of a valued ecosystem. This is also essential in healthcare as creation of an inclusive and diverse workplace in this sector is a moral imperative as well as can enhance the delivery of patient care. DEI initiatives empower healthcare professionals by creating a thriving workplace in which differences are valued, respected, equal opportunities are promoted, and work satisfaction as a result of these factors drives healthy productivity, supports Emotional Quotient (EQ), and results in positive and genuine outcomes for both workers and patients on the whole.
In the medical field and community, diversity is broadly defined as inclusion of a variety of characteristics and attributes, and encompasses healthcare professionals, educators, researchers, trainees, and patients of different race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, socioeconomic status, disability, primary spoken language, or geography or country. The pandemic caused a severe staffing crisis across all roles in healthcare, and a key factor that proved powerful enough to bring healthcare workers and professionals to the frontline during this trying time was the value their employer, managers, and peers placed on the presence and treatment of people from different backgrounds in the organization. Also, taking a cue from this aspect, DEI initiatives can be given much-deserved prominence to develop, cultivate, and nurture a thriving workplace to further empower healthcare professionals to deliver exceptional patient care under varying circumstances and settings in future.
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