Hospitals Are in Serious Trouble

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The health-care workforce, which was short-staffed before the pandemic, has been decimated over the past two years. As I reported in November, waves of health-care workers have quit their jobs (or their entire profession) because of moral distress, exhaustion, poor treatment by their hospitals or patients, or some combination of those. These losses leave the remaining health-care workers with fewer trusted colleagues who speak in the same shorthand, less expertise to draw from, and more work. “Before, the sickest ICU patient would get two nurses, and now there’s four patients for every nurse,” Megan Brunson, an ICU nurse in Texas, told me. “It makes it impossible to do everything you need to do.”

Omicron has turned this bad situation into a dire one. Its ability to infect even vaccinated people means that “the numbers of staff who are sick are astronomical compared to previous surges,”


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