Health care workers were pushed to the brink during the pandemic, exacerbating existing problems that still persist, according to a new Yukon University study.
The paper, published this week, looks at the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic had on Yukon’s health care workers.
“The challenges of providing care in the north are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to increased stress,” the authors concluded. Those challenges include recruitment and retention of health care professionals, limited resources and serving rural, isolated communities.
“We must build a more resilient health care system that can sustain our aging society.”
The study surveyed 141 health care workers in the territory last fall, asking them a number of questions about burnout caused by workload, loss of personal time and incapacity to care for patients.
Findings indicated little difference in burnout and fatigue between health care workers in Yukon’s urban and rural communities.
More than half of respondents reported feeling tired, worn-out and exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Over a quarter indicated they often feel they “can’t take it anymore.”
Nurses reported higher rates of burnout than doctors, though the majority of respondents from both camps said burnout and fatigue became worse in the pandemic.
The report noted that other jurisdictions have seen a loss of health care workers due to worsening stress levels.
“In light of these findings, there is cause for concern that frontline [health care] workers in the Yukon, specifically nurses, may follow a similar trend,” the report states.
“Seeing as the Yukon’s healthcare system is reliant on nurses, especially in those who work in rural communities, this is problematic as it could exacerbate a pre-existing staffing crisis, compromise patient care, and increase the workload for remaining staff.”