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First-Of-Its-Kind Survey Aims To Stop Exodus Of Health Care Workers

DENVER (CBS4) - A disaster preparedness coalition of health organizations in Colorado is taking action to prevent widespread staff shortages in health care. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many health care facilities were short-staffed.

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Burnout from the pandemic has worsened the situation. Many doctors and nurses are leaving the profession and there's not enough students in the pipeline to fill the void. Now, a first-of-its-kind survey is aimed at figuring out what it will take to prevent them from leaving.

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"We can't afford to lose any people prematurely out of these workforces. I think that's the key point. So, the idea is to try and direct this in some ways. Is there anything we can do to retain them," says Zeke Peters, a 30-year paramedic and member the North Central Region Health Care Coalition, which commissioned the survey.

He says the survey is aimed at giving health care workers a hearing.

"A lot people who have taken this find it, for lack of a better description, very therapeutic. There is someone listening and we would like to give people that hearing," Peters said.

It's for everyone from doctors and nurses to hospital IT workers and orderlies.

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"If we're about to have a mass attrition of people who are actually competent at cleaning rooms to kill all the COVID in them, then we're in a lot of trouble," says Peters.

He also wants input from former and future health care workers.

"Particularly those students who might have been sort of like, 'Well, I think I would like to have a career in emergency management, but I think maybe it doesn't look so good anymore.' And that's what we would really like to know about it," said Peters. "Maybe there's a way to say, hold on a minute, because there's actually a lot of opportunity here."

Right now, ICUs in Colorado are 90 percent full, according to Colleen Casper, Executive Director of the Colorado Nurses Association.

"It's not just burnout. It is moral injury that they cannot provide the care that they want to be able to give and they know these patients deserve," said Casper.

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She hopes the survey results will be a wake-up call for hospitals.

"I feel like this pandemic and this survey is a way to inform ourselves and save a workforce that is at great risk," Casper said.

The hope is to stop the bleeding before it gets any worse.

"We will not be able to respond again. We will not even be able finish this response if we have this kind of attrition," Peters said.

Peters and Casper say about a thousand workers have responded to the survey, that many hospitals refused to distribute.

The survey is available at this link. It will be open for at least another month and is completely confidential.

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