New Study Suggests Long Care Workers, Physicians at Greater Risk of Turnover

FJ Thomas

Sarasota, FL ( – In the last two years, healthcare has seen a mass exodus of healthcare workers. In fact, some estimates show that healthcare lost an unprecedented 1.48 million workers just in March and April of 2020. While most of the jobs returned several months later, as of last fall healthcare employment was still 2.7 percent lower than it was before the pandemic hit.

In the midst of the pandemic, healthcare workers made up 25 percent of those that were ineligible for the emergency paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Long-term care workers, health assistants and aides, are commonly without paid sick leave and adequate child care, leading them to choose between staying employed in the face of risk, or caring for their families.

During the pandemic, most studies and reports focused on number of open and filled jobs without clearly identifying and tracking which types of workers were leaving their jobs. Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle utilized data from the Current Population Survey to determine which category of healthcare workers lost or left their jobs during the pandemic, who was at the highest risk of leaving the workforce, and whether they were job searching.

The researchers reviewed data on full-time healthcare workers employed from 2019 to 2021, and compared turnover rates from January 2019 to March 2020, from April to December 2020, and from January to October 2021. Turnover or exit responses were defined as being unemployed or out of the labor force in a month subsequent to a month when they reported being actively employed in the health care industry. The probability of exiting was calculated using a logic regression that took into account their occupation, their work setting, sex, marital status, parental status as well as age of children, education level, and residential classification.

The researchers reviewed response data on 125,717 healthcare workers. The average age of the study pool was 43, with females comprising 77 percent and white ethnicity comprising 67.4 percent. Overall, healthcare turnover rates were estimated to have peaked from April to December 2020, but had recovered by 2021. The same trend however, was not observed for long term care workers, such as aides and assistants, and not observed for physicians as well. In fact, the researchers found a four-fold difference in turnover rates between physicians and long-term care workers. Workers with children under the age of 5 also had higher turnover rates. When broken out by race, Black and Latino workers had the slowest job recovery rates, followed by Indigenous workers.

The researchers believe the study will help employers to target their recruitment and retention efforts.