Custom Quick Reference Information Directories
GCC Blog

We hope you find our articles informative and interesting. If you'd like to receive our monthly newsletter with articles like these, please take a minute to sign up.

‘Burnout’: Health-Care Worker Shortages Are Straining Staffs

September 28th, 2021 by Guest Communications


Written by: Karen Dandurant

(TNS) – Seacoast area hospitals are not immune from a problem plaguing health care facilities and many businesses across the nation, with bed space and staffing needs reaching critical mass.

“Like everyone else, we are seeing the worst staffing problems I have seen in my career, in 25 years,” said Dr. Neil Meehan, chief physician executive at Exeter Health Resources, and an emergency room doctor. “We are actively recruiting nurses, support position like MAs and LNAS, plus all basic support staff. We worry about when this gets worse; will be able to deliver the same level of care?”

It would be easy to blame the influx of COVID-19 cases, but that’s not the whole picture, according to local hospital officials. While the admission of COVID-19 cases is having an impact, the changes it has caused in the economy represents the other side of the story.

Martha Munhall, senior director of human resources at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, said the hospital is seeing “unprecedented vacancies.”

She said hospitals across the country are facing the same issues. She said beds are filling, with COVID-19 cases, but also with people who deferred medical care because of fear of the virus, or because hospitals were forced to delay elective surgeries when the pandemic first struck.

“COVID cases are a fair share of what we are seeing,” she said. “We have definitely seen more of an uptick recently and vaccination is what is going to save us. But we are also seeing people who have delayed care and are now coming in sicker than they expected to be. We are seeing those people in droves.”

Munhall said through it all, patient care is their number one focus.

“People here are still making sure that patient care is not impacted,” said Munhall. “We have not shut down any services. We know this is happening throughout the country. Some businesses are changing their hours or closing on certain days. That is not a luxury we have in health care.”

Instead, Munhall said, they try to repurpose staff to areas where the need is most critical.

In an interview last week, Stacey Savage, a registered nurse and clinical director of emergency services at WDH, said it’s a combination of COVID-19 cases and other patients forcing the hospital to stretch its resources.

Nurses and other health care personnel pride themselves on the care they give, but Savage said she is seeing more people, nurses and other staff leaving the profession than ever before in her 20-plus-year career.

“I am most concerned about health care workers,” Savage said. “They are exhausted by the numbers of people we are seeing, but also exhausted emotionally, and mentally. They are concerned about contracting the virus. They are concerned for their families and their patients. They are leaving the profession.”

Munhall said health-care workers are tired.

“We have people leaving health care,” she said. “We have people leaving us to go be a school nurse. Both are important but they are doing it because they cannot take the pace, the stress of what is happening here.”

Meehan said that when the first wave of COVID-19 happened, health care workers were looked on as heroes.

“Now, with the politicization, the bad information, the COVID conspiracy theories, that’s no longer the case,” he said. “People in health care are disheartened, resulting in a sense of ambiguity, of burnout.”

Munhall said their efforts to retain and recruit new staff include adjustments in salary, for both clinical and non-clinical positions.

“We will adjust 2,000 employees and those new pay rates will also transfer to new hires,” Munhall said.

A job fair for all Wentworth-Douglass open positions will be held on Sept. 28.

Janet Laatsch, CEO of Greater Seacoast Community Health said stffing is a tough problem right now.

“As a community clinic, we are seeing a lot of tragedies right now, COVID, suicides, overdoses,” she said. “We hired a crisis management coordinator, to work on staff self care and resiliency. People are anxious. We still have 10 people who will not take the vaccination.”

Laatsch said she is worried about her staff and about patients.

“We are doing a big effort on retention,” she said. “Patients are also angry and frightened. They may have lost their job, their house. It’s a really tough time.”

At York Hospital, Dr. Evangeline Thibodeau, an infectious disease doctor, said their issue is not so much available beds as it is staffing.

“We started feeling staffing issues over the winter,” Thibodeau said. “People are getting out of medical professions. They are exhausted, burned out. Some started to wonder why they are doing this anymore.”

Thibodeau said the problem is not completely because of COVID-19.

“We do have cases here but I think overall our staff feels safe,” she said. “We know so much more and have gotten better at how we handle it. We excel at PPE, and we have rapid testing. The delta variant proves the survival of the fittest theory, and so far it is stronger than the other variants, including the new ones. Still, we are managing to hold our own there.”

Because York Hospital is independent, not part of a larger corporate group, Thibodeau said it faces unique challenges.

“We do not have a large staffing pool to draw from,” she said. “So, right now a lot of us are wearing several hats, working in several areas. For example, I am an infectious disease doctor, but I am also working in wound care right now. OB nurses may find themselves working as medical nurses on the floors. It’s challenging, but we are making it work.”

Thibodeau said it’s not just hospitals feeling the strain, but also primary care doctors offices, clinics and other practices.

“My office lost a nurse in the spring,” Thibodeau said. “We have not been able to replace that position, causing my other staff to work harder.”

Portsmouth Regional Hospital is also feeling the pinch in staffing.

“Like healthcare organizations nationwide, Portsmouth Regional Hospital is working to address a tight labor market, which coincides with nursing workforce shortages compounded by the pandemic,” said Dean Carucci, CEO, in a prepared statement. “As part of the HCA’s New Hampshire market, Portsmouth Regional Hospital, as well as Frisbie Memorial Hospital and Parkland Medical Center, are working to retain our existing colleagues, attract new nurses, and encouraging and supporting those considering a career in nursing through education programs and partnerships with brick-and-mortar universities. We are attracting new nurses to work at our facilities through aggressive recruitment efforts including sign-on bonuses and referral bonuses in strategic areas and specialties. In addition, we have put tremendous focus on those professions that help support our bedside nurses such as LNAs, techs, and PCTs.”

Despite all the challenges, Meehan expressed optimism.

“We are mission driven in this profession,” he said. “We will prevail and this will eventually be behind us. There has never been a safer vaccine rolled out so quickly in our or anyone’s lifetime. That makes this an extraordinary time to live.”


(c)2021 the Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)

Visit the Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

This article appeared on Emergency Management News and si shared with consent:


Guide to Guest Services
Fully customized vinyl information directories for your patients and their visitors. They are easy to update and easy to use.
Guide to Emergency Preparedness
Fully customized quick reference guides to help keep your staff prepared for emergencies.
Guide to Infection Control
Fully customized quick reference guide to help keep your staff prepared for safe infection prevention and control procedures.
Accessories for your guides
Protect your investment by utilizing one of our various mounting systems.
Other Popular Products
Customized products including 3-Ring Binders, Sports Memory Books, Menus, Hotel Directories, and more…