On Friday, April 22, 2022, United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy visited Jackson Memorial Hospital. He hosted a roundtable discussion with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers about their experiences working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Murthy, a Miami native, addressed burnout and healthcare workforce turnover. He said his office was drafting a blueprint to address these issues.
Earlier this week, Murthy released a Surgeon General’s Advisory Addressing Health Worker Burnout, an issue he says is a growing national threat to our individual and collective health.
“Health workers have long had our back — it’s time for us to have theirs,” Murthy said in a tweet announcing the Advisory.
Surgeon General Advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that require the American people’s immediate attention. The 76-page document outlines what communities can do — from healthcare organizations and governments to insurance companies and academic institutions — to build healthier workforces.
In the Advisory’s conclusion, Murthy writes about his April 22 visit to Jackson Memorial Hospital. He recalls going around the room, speaking to various healthcare workers about how the pandemic impacted their work, and asking how they were coping.
One nurse told Murthy that he was “hopeless, but not helpless.”
“I was struck by his faith,” Murthy writes. “After two unfathomably traumatic years, he was still showing up — sometimes tired, sometimes overwhelmed, sometimes scared or lonely, but always confident in the power of his compassion, his colleagues, and his community to make things just a little bit better every day.”
Policy, institutional, and systemic changes are necessary to address this burnout crisis.
“Will we step up, and meet our moral obligation to care for those who have cared for us?” Murthy asks. “It won’t be easy. Many of the recommendations in this Advisory require significant structural change and sustained investment. They will take time and require our continued attention and action. But the hope of health workers has endured far worse. Our efforts must as well.”
Read the full report below.