The health care work force in the US had huge turnover at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic but seems to be getting back to prepandemic levels, although it’s not there yet, according to a new study.
The study, published Friday in the journal JAMA Health Forum, found that the recovery has largely been uneven.
Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Minnesota compared turnover rates between April-December 2020 and January-October 2021, using records from the US Current Population Survey, along with records from the US Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They looked at records on 125,717 health care workers.
When hospitals postponed elective surgeries and clinics closed during the first peak of the pandemic, about 1.5 million health care workers lost their jobs, other research has showed. Most jobs returned by fall 2020. But by the next year, the health care employment rate was still 2.7% below prepandemic levels.
The researchers note that because of the way they did this study, they weren’t able to directly link work force exits to Covid-19.
Turnover rates peaked in the first part of the pandemic, but the work force largely recovered in the second period studied, with the exception of doctors and people who worked in long-term care facilities.
Turnover rates also varied by demographics. More health care workers – men and women – with young children left the work force. The rate was higher among women.
The turnover rates among American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Pacific Islanders were higher than among other races. Black and Latino workers experienced the slowest job recovery rates in the second period studied. The people least likely to leave were White workers.
Turnover also varied by position, with aides and assistants most likely to leave their jobs throughout the pandemic.
The researchers were unable to address specifically why people were quitting, but study co-author Janette Dill, an associate professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, had some ideas.
Wages may a part of the problem. She points to the high turnover rates in long-term care as an example.
“Long-term care i