In a comparison of healthcare worker employment in pre-pandemic and pandemic periods, many more non-physicians became unemployed than physicians, according to a JAMA research letter published Sept. 19. 

The study found that therapists, technicians, aides and other healthcare workers all joined the unemployment ranks at a higher rate than doctors. Researchers defined a healthcare worker as “any individual working in a hospital or health services.”

Nursing homes have been the hardest hit healthcare sector with reference to employee losses. Hundreds of thousands have left post-acute settings, especially skilled nursing. Staff recovery rates for nursing homes have severely lagged other healthcare settings such as hospitals and physician offices.

In many ways, COVID-19, has been toughest on individuals in lower socioeconomic settings and standings and the JAMA research underscored that point.

When comparing pre-pandemic and pandemic periods, relative to least-educated people, only respondents with bachelor’s degrees reported significantly less unemployment. Reported unemployment increased among women, persons of Hispanic, non-Hispanic Black, or other race and ethnicity. Older cohorts fared better, just like men, non-Hispanic white people, and younger cohorts.

“Before COVID-19, HCWs were already experiencing increased burnout and turnover, raising concerns about the sustainability of the healthcare workforce,” wrote the two authors. “Given the threat of COVID-19 to the health and well-being of HCWs, we examined changes in unemployment among HCWs from January 2015 to April 2022.”

The study examined changes in unemployment from April, 2020, to April, 2022, relative to January, 2015, to March, 2020, among different professional and demographic groups in healthcare. The sample contained 507,985 healthcare respondents aged 25 to 70 years who were interviewed between January 2015 and April 2022.
“Differences across HCWs may be related to how emergency funding was deployed to healthcare organizations and which service lines were prioritized,” the authors noted.