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The COVID-19 Crisis

Has COVID-19 affected the job outlook for physicians?

Employment status amid COVID-19 concerns

In June we asked clinicians if their organization was affected by furloughs, layoffs or both, and 54% responded their facility was impacted. Drilling down deeper in our most recent survey, we found an astounding 24% of respondents were professionally affected at some point due to the pandemic. Fortunately, more than half (55%) of those who lost their jobs are employed in a full-time position again, and an additional 21% are working locum tenens.

Have you been furloughed/laid off due to COVID-19?

Of those who said yes: Have you been employed again since your furlough/layoff?

Has COVID-19 changed the perception of working locum tenens assignments?

We also asked all respondents if they worked on a locum tenens basis at all during 2019, and while most did not, 74% said they would at least consider it for the future. Four percent said they would consider it due to COVID-19. Most people said they would choose it for more flexibility, followed by more time with family and friends.

Did you work on a locum tenens basis during 2019?

Of those considering locum tenens in the future, why?

For those who selected “due to COVID-19,” many common answers consisted of losing full-time jobs, being furloughed or having hours cut. Some respondents still worked the same hours but endured salary cuts. There were also many clinicians who were concerned for their or their family’s safety, so they would move to locum tenens to safely provide telehealth services. “I’d switch to telework options as my home-life balance has been significantly impacted,” said one nurse practitioner.

Many other responses included physicians and advanced practitioners wanting to fight the virus in any way they could to “help in areas of need.” As one urology PA stated, “I worked COVID relief this year and it was absolutely amazing. I would love to travel and learn more skills.”

For those who selected “other,” for why they would consider locum tenens, answers mostly consisted of increasing income or supplemental pay, followed by traveling more and transitioning into telehealth work.

"I’d switch to telework options as my home-life balance has been significantly impacted." - Nurse Practitioner

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COVID-19 experiences so far and what to expect this winter

COVID-19 has shaken up the healthcare industry, affecting healthcare practitioners in every specialty, no matter age, experience or location. We asked physicians and advanced practitioners about their experiences thus far to learn about their opinions and expectations as we move into the winter season.

Has there been an increase in patients receiving preventive care since the peak of COVID-19?

In June we asked clinicians if they saw a decrease in patients coming in for routine or preventive care. Almost three-quarters (71%) of respondents saw at least a 25% decrease in patients coming in for preventive care, with more than 30% of respondents seeing at least a 50% decrease. Since the peak of COVID-19 in their respective regions, only 20% of respondents are seeing at least a 51% increase.

Have you started to see an increase in patients coming in for routine or preventive care?

Are we better prepared for a second wave of COVID-19?

Infectious disease experts are warning of a potential second wave as we approach winter, with the typical cold-weather respiratory illnesses compounding the effects of the novel coronavirus. Our survey asked if we will be better prepared this time after what we’ve learned so far in 2020, but most of the respondents were split in what they thought. Thirty-nine percent of answers said we will be better prepared, but the same percentage also said they are unsure.

Are we better prepared for a potential second wave of COVID-19?

The two most common answers for why someone chose “yes” for being better prepared for a second wave included more knowledge about prevention protocols and treatment options. Many other people mentioned safety measures and equipment are in place and facilities and staff are ready. The increase of the use and the quality of telehealth services is also mentioned frequently.

“Despite our current political climate and the misinformation presented, I feel that our healthcare experts are making clear the potential dangers and needs for proactive behaviors required to safeguard the health of our communities,” a family practice NP states. A hospitalist shares his positivity, saying, “We will not need to shut down states or entire cities anymore. Contingency plans are now in place to deal with isolated cases and/or outbreaks without having to stop full hospital or healthcare system operations.”

For the 22% of healthcare providers who do not think we will be prepared for a second wave this winter, the most common reason mentioned is lack of federal leadership or consistency of healthcare guidelines for the nation as a whole. The second most common answer is too many Americans have become complacent and are no longer following social distancing protocols or taking the virus seriously. Others are concerned the lack of health insurance among patients will overwhelm the emergency care system and hospitals.

An emergency medicine PA has seen “attitudes have become somewhat complacent as both staff and patients are becoming weary of this virus,” while a psychiatrist adds “we have unclear national guidelines and a lack of national response. There is limited public health leadership and vacillating guidelines, resulting in front-line workers lacking clarity and resources.”

Are you concerned about having enough PPE during a second wave if COVID-19 cases increase?

Some of the responses to those who answered “no” to the U.S. being prepared for a potential second wave included a lack of personal protective equipment. Most people who took the survey were split down the middle about their concern.

Are patients taking the coronavirus seriously? Is misinformation an issue?

When asked if they are concerned with their patients not taking the coronavirus seriously, most physicians and advanced practitioners who responded to the survey said “yes,” though some respondents saw positive change in their regions in the country or their places of work.

An OBGYN expresses her concerns, mirroring many of the other responses, stating, “the coronavirus has been very politicized. It is very dependent on what area in the country you are working as to which hospitals/patients think coronavirus is a serious threat or not.”

We also asked how they deal with the misinformation patients bring to them. More than 1,500 respondents wrote in their specific thoughts on the topic, with the most common answers involving education.

“I find that education and having data to support patient education is key. It is also important to be able to effectively interpret statistics for patients in order for them to have a better understanding of the situation,” says a pediatric hospitalist. A family practice physician similarly states, “We have an open discussion. I don’t try to change their minds, but I don’t validate their misinformation. I try to be rational and supportive, advising of unsafe practices when applicable.” Many other healthcare clinicians add avoiding political discussions is difficult, and some respondents say patients are often under- or over-concerned, so finding a middle ground is sometimes complicated.

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