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Harris, surgeon general, warn of health care worker burnout

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy are warning of burnout among the nation's health care staff after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the potential for severe worker shortages in the years ahead if the situation is not addressed.

Harris and Murthy on Monday are visiting Children’s National Hospital in Washington to meet with health care providers and deliver remarks as Murthy unveils a report, “Surgeon General’s Advisory Addressing Health Worker Burnout.” It sounds the alarm over a projected shortage of “3 million essential low-wage health workers” in the next five years, as well as nearly 140,000 doctors by 2033.

“The nation’s health depends on the well-being of our health workforce. Confronting the long-standing drivers of burnout among our health workers must be a top national priority,” Murthy said in a statement. “COVID-19 has been a uniquely traumatic experience for the health workforce and for their families, pushing them past their breaking point. Now, we owe them a debt of gratitude and action. And if we fail to act, we will place our nation’s health at risk."

The administration is calling for new investments and steps to protect the mental wellbeing of health care workers, including by expanding counseling offerings, reducing administrative burdens and promoting worker safety on the job.

The initiative comes as the Biden administration is mounting a nationwide push to address mental health issues. President Joe Biden unveiled a national strategy to expand mental health and drug abuse treatment during his State of the Union address in March.