According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 590,000 health care and social workers quit their jobs in July. This is the highest number since December 2020.
These are the people who stepped up at the beginning of the pandemic, working around the clock to take care of patients, trying to save lives while also connecting with families who couldn't be there at the bedside.
Now, 19 months later, many are exhausted physically and emotionally.
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"I was either going to have a nervous breakdown, or I was going to leave nursing altogether," said Tiffany Montgomery, Ph.D., R.N.
After 16 years, she left bedside nursing due to the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic.
"You could never predict anything, you just didn't know from day to day, from hour to hour," she said.
She saw patients come in stable. Then hours later they were struggling to breathe.
It was a similar situation for Sharon Demore, who was a bedside nurse for 10 years. And on top of the uncertainty, early in the pandemic, both also faced safety concerns.
"So some days you go from wearing a full hazmat suit to just an N-95 mask and hoping for the best," Demore said.
She left her role in December, saying she was emotionally drained, especially after helping countless patients FaceTime with their families because visitors weren't allowed inside.
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"It's such a scary time in anyone's life. And to have them there without their support system is just truly unbelievable. And you know, just letting them know that their loved one is gonna be OK and trying to convince yourself of that too," said Demore.
Both Demore and Montgomery are now working in new positions in health care but not directly with patients. They feel for today's frontline workers, knowing frustration is building.
"I'm looking at the number of people who have not taken this vaccine. Although there are enormous amounts of evidence it's safe, that it is effective, people still won't do what scientists and experts are asking them to do," Montgomery said.
"I think it's frustrating that there's no end in sight, and there could be," added Demore.
More stories like these mean more medical centers are struggling to fill shifts, which could affect everyone who has to go into a hospital.
A local psychiatrist set up a support hotline for health care workers. The Physician Support Line number is 1-888-409-0141.