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How worsening clinical burnout elevates organizational risk

Nick Culbertson ( is CEO and Co-Founder of Protenus in Baltimore, MD.

For more than a year now, physicians and nurses battling the COVID-19 pandemic have witnessed tragedy on a scale greater than most could have ever imagined.

Healthcare workers have been overwhelmed with patients to the extent that some hospitals set up COVID-19 units in parking lots, and others made the difficult decision to ration care. Witnessing suffering to this extent—in many cases without sufficient supplies or personnel to deal with patient surges—has taken a major toll on the healthcare workforce.

“It is terrible to see people arriving at their rooms and assuming they were going to die soon; to see people saying goodbye to their families before dying or before being intubated,” one US-based critical care physician told healthcare news outlet Medscape.[1]

Clinicians, especially those with underlying conditions, are also grappling with concerns about contracting the virus themselves. By the end of 2020, the pandemic claimed the lives of more than 2,900 US healthcare workers, according to an investigative project by Kaiser Health News and The Guardian.[2] Researchers linked one-third of fatalities to inadequate levels of personal protective equipment, which have sparked protests at healthcare organizations across the country.

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