Healthcare workers are always tasked with doing difficult jobs, but this was never more the case than when Covid-19 through the entire world into upheaval. Three years later, things are as normal as they will ever be, but the healthcare system is still struggling to heal and move forward.
In this article, we take a look at what things are like for healthcare workers now, and what it means for the future.
What Exactly is the Role of Healthcare Workers?
Our title asks a question that might be a little off. The role of healthcare workers is always to achieve the best possible outcome for the patient. No pandemic could change that. However, Covid has radically altered the landscape within which this duty is carried out.
Covid-19 saw even hospitals operating within very stable healthcare systems falter and buckle at the knees. Most hospitals simply aren’t designed to handle an influx of dozens of extra patients, regardless of how good they are.
The issue was exacerbated by resource scarcity. Not enough beds. Not enough equipment. Not enough personnel. The first two problems have settled down. The last one hasn’t.
There are two reasons for that:
- People who left healthcare because of Covid moved on with their lives. The pandemic may be over now (or at least as over as it will ever be three years out) but the people who quit their jobs at the start of it have moved on to new things.
- The pandemic didn’t cause the personnel shortage. What is this, some sort of twist? It does have a “the call was coming from inside the house,” sort of vibe. But it’s completely true! Covid certainly didn’t result in more nurses, but the actual problem began years prior. For a long time now, there haven’t been enough new nurses coming in, and there have been too many old ones leaving. Obviously, that’s a dynamic that will catch up with you eventually no matter what. Thanks to Covid, it now has.
This is a serious issue for which there are real-world consequences. Healthcare outcomes become radically worse when hospitals are unable to give their patients everything they need. Worse yet, it’s a self-defeating problem.
In every industry, turnover begets turnover. A nurse leaves. All of their former coworkers work harder to pick up the slack. They get burnt out. They leave.
Not everything about the post-Covid healthcare world is bad. The pandemic has left hospitals with a heightened sense of sanitation responsibilities. Hospitals clean more often. Many still require masks. They provide hand sanitizer, sanitation wipes, and so on.
On the patient end, this can be a little inconvenient. Many the person has shown up to their wellness visit only to realize that they forgot to bring a mask.
But these new measures serve a greater good. Hospitals have always been a major source of germs and bacteria. It turns out that sticking all of the sick people in one town in the same place has consequences. Infections. Hospital-related sickness and disease.
These things impact not just the patients, but also the people who work at hospitals. While stricter sanitation policies can’t wipe away concerns entirely, they can contribute to a safer, cleaner environment.
A Heightened Emphasis on Digital Care
No one could say that the digitalization of healthcare was brought on by Covid. Healthcare records went to the cloud well before the pandemic, and many of the other developments that are now being implemented were a long time coming as well.
Still, the pandemic did heighten the need for digital technology within healthcare. Here are a few of the many ways Covid has exacerbated the digitalization of healthcare.
Data played a critical role in how hospitals managed their resources during the pandemic. Through analytics, local healthcare systems could predict viral surges. This helped them anticipate when they were going to need greater levels of resources. It also helped them to better understand where to direct the resources they did have on hand.
Even without a pandemic, local analytics can help healthcare systems understand what issues are posing the biggest threat to the members of their community. For example, does this town have higher levels of obesity? If so, the hospital may decide to pay more attention to its cardiovascular resources. This information can also be used to help curve vaccine hesitancy.
The pandemic revealed that many American families are uncomfortable with getting vaccinated. This kind of data can help hospitals better understand how they should reach out to and educate the communities that they serve.
The pandemic also gave rise to a much higher level of virtual appointments. Offices didn’t want a bunch of people crowding their waiting rooms. Virtual appointments served as a good solution for handling minor questions. People could write in or video chat with their doctor to handle small questions. This saves patients tons of time and helps to avoid patient bottlenecks.
In a post-pandemic world, both of these resources continue to be vital elements of how hospitals take care of their communities.
Improved Public Support
If the pandemic did healthcare workers any good at all, it was in how it brought their struggles to the public’s attention. People are now more aware than ever of the hardships that are associated with being a healthcare worker. Most even have a heightened appreciation for the doctors, nurses, and techs who risked their safety to provide care for others during the pandemic.
This may not sound like much. Grateful or not, most people don’t have the power to change the system. However, awareness can make a big difference. For one thing, it puts pressure on administrators and legislators to do what they can to alleviate some of the burden placed on healthcare workers.
It also just helps to boost employee morale at hospitals. It’s easy to underestimate the value of simple recognition. However, a significant number of people rank it as being more important than compensation when it comes to selecting a job.