49% of Washington healthcare workers plan to quit, new poll says

The poll found that 79% of the 1,200 healthcare workers surveyed feel somewhat or very burned out.

SEATTLE — A majority of healthcare workers in Washington state are burned out.

According to a study released Monday, many healthcare workers plan to leave the profession in the coming years.

“I love my work,” said Annika Hoogestraat. “I love my job.”

Hoogestraat, a registered nurse for 19 years, has reached a breaking point in her career.

“It’s so exhausting,” Hoogestraat said. “I don’t know if I can do it any longer.”

An ICU nurse at Seattle Children’s, Hoogestraat said the days of experienced nurses training new nurses are long gone.

“It takes a good two years to teach someone how to do that job,” Hoogestraat said. “It’s hard to see the new generation of nurses coming in are just getting beaten down.”

In a new poll from the Washington Safe and Healthy Coalition, some of the key findings include that 79% of the 1,200 healthcare workers surveyed said they feel somewhat or very burned out. The poll found that 49% of nurses said they are likely to leave the healthcare profession in the next few years. Short staffing was one of the top reasons why people plan to leave.

And 94% of the healthcare workers support establishing minimum staffing standards and limiting the number of patients one nurse or healthcare worker can take care of at a time.

Jane Hopkins, a registered nurse for more than 20 years, now serves as president of the Healthcare Worker Union.

Her organization along with several others is supporting Senate Bill 5236 which would create what the supporter said are safer staffing standards. If the law is not passed, Hopkins predicted a grim outcome for the future of healthcare in Washington.

“If we don’t get minimum staffing standards (and) a pathway to do that in a few years. I’m urging the legislature to do this,” Hopkins said. “We’re not setting people up for success, we’re not setting people to be able to continue in this work and it breaks my heart.”

State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, released a statement Tuesday morning in response to the poll results.

“We all know the last few years have been especially hard on healthcare workers. They have been stretched to the breaking point with tremendously increased demands on their time and effort,” Keiser said.

“But it is still shocking to learn, as this poll shows, that half of healthcare workers in our state plan to leave the profession in the next few years. And 80 percent of healthcare workers report they are burned out. That’s not safe for them, and it’s not safe for patients. How can we expect healthcare workers to continue their superhuman pandemic-era effort indefinitely?

“This shows why it’s so important to institute common-sense safe staffing standards to ensure that workers aren’t asked to take care of too many patients at a time.”

Senate Bill 5236 does have opposition. The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) believes mandating staffing ratios will negatively impact patient care.

WSHA is pushing a set of other bills that in part, would offer student loan repayment for nurses and join 37 other states in the nurse licensure compact to allow nurses from other states to easily practice here.


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