More Black Health Care Workers Left the Workforce Post-Pandemic

There was an increase in health care workforce turnover after the pandemic, according to a study published online Jan. 26 in JAMA Health Forum.

Karen Shen, Ph.D., from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues quantified the number of workers exiting from and entering into the health care workforce before and after the COVID-19 pandemic using U.S. Census Bureau state unemployment insurance data.

According to a 2023 study, Black and Indigenous health care workers faced reduced employment after the pandemic compared other racial groups.

The researchers found approximately 18.8 million people were working in the health care sector in this sample in quarter 1 of 2020. At the onset of the pandemic, there was an increase in the exit rate for health care workers, from a baseline quarterly mean of 5.9 percentage points to 8.0 percentage points in 2018 and quarter 1 of 2020, respectively. Through quarter 4 of 2021, exit rates remained higher than baseline levels, with the health care exit rate 7.7 percentage points higher than the baseline in 2018. The increase in health care worker exit rates was dominated by an increase in workers exiting to nonemployment in quarter 1 of 2020 (78 percent increase versus baseline); in contrast, the exit rate was dominated by workers exiting to employment in non-health care sectors by quarter 4 of 2021 (38 percent increase). There was an increase seen in entry rates in health care in the post-pandemic period, suggesting increased turnover of health care staff.

“Given these findings, policy efforts to address health care worker burnout and improve health care worker hiring pipelines are well warranted,” the authors write.

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