Despite Burnout, These California Health Care Workers Aren’t Quitting

Nurses and doctors say they don’t want to abandon their co-workers or their patients.

By Soumya Karlamangla | New York Times

Medical staff members treating a Covid-19 patient at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.
Medical staff members treating a Covid-19 patient at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. Credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

As I explored in yesterday’s newsletter, nurses and doctors in California are burned out.

Though Covid-19 hospitalizations appear to be peaking in California and remain substantially lower than during last winter’s surge, health care workers have been toiling in uncertain and stressful conditions for nearly two years.

Coronavirus cases surge, new variants appear and shortages of protective gear, medicines and staff continually emerge.

Still, a majority of health workers who wrote to us said that despite their frustrations, they didn’t plan to leave their jobs.

They don’t want to let down their co-workers or abandon their patients. They want to combat misinformation, administer Covid-19 vaccines and, as much as possible, help others.

Here’s what they shared about how they’re coping with this latest surge and why they keep showing up at work:

“As the daughter of an Army veteran, a sense of duty was instilled in me at a young age. I am a nurse and have worked in a hospital setting for over 20 years; I can’t leave health care during its greatest need.

I love my co-workers. We’ve already been through three waves together — we will get through this one as well.” — Laura Maffeo, registered nurse, Anaheim

“My family is fully vaccinated and we no longer worry about getting seriously ill, especially with this recent variant. As long as schools are open and we have that support for our kids, we feel that we (my wife is also a physician) will get through this. We have to.” — Dr. George Spanos, radiologist, Los Angeles

“The only thing that keeps me going is the need. I am a retired pharmacist who went back to work just to increase the availability of vaccinations (of every sort).

I spend time combating misinformation, making the vaccination experience comfortable and praising the recipients who join me in uplifting the community well-being.”— Sandra Bardas, clinical pharmacist, Menlo Park

“I have a mortgage payment, little kids in school and a husband who lost his job. I’m the financial backbone of my family, and I’m fortunate to make a salary that enables us to cover our bills. I really don’t know what else I would do, so I make the best of it.” — Jenny Burnett, registered nurse, Concord

“My co-workers and I keep each other going by supporting, finding humor in things, being good listeners. This is a job where you are always needed.” — Lindsey Stover, registered nurse, Los Angeles

“My hospital sees very underserved patients who have very little interaction with the health care systems, and these are the patients I’ve committed myself to serving.

My colleagues and fellow staff keep me going each day. It’s always a great time being with them. Seeing how generous my co-workers are — watching them give so much of themselves for their work and their community — inspires me to keep going alongside them.” — Dr. Jessica Martin Moreno, emergency medicine resident, Fresno

“Our nurses need to not feel more abandoned than they already are. I see how hard they’re working, that they keep showing up, and it keeps me showing up.” — Joanna Mello, assistant nurse manager, Sacramento

“As an Indigenous woman, I’m just trying to do my best to help my people and others like us survive this pandemic. I’m doing good work in a community health center that tries to help the most vulnerable. And even if I get death threats or scorn and yelled at by those who misunderstand what we’re doing, my family sees me. And loves me.

And I can come home every night knowing that in my last days, I’ll have done everything I could to keep my loved ones, and yours, safe.” — Dr. Kalamaoka’aina Niheu, family medicine, Albany

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