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‘Worse than you can even imagine’: Alberta healthcare workers battle burnout

Burnout concept. Exhausted caucasian female short haircut doctor, wearing medical mask, sitting on a floor in corridor of clinic with closed eyes

CALGARY — An all-time low. That’s how one Calgary doctor describes morale as exhausted healthcare workers battle an already concerning fourth wave that has yet to peak, leading to questions about the future of healthcare in Alberta.

“It really is worse than you can even imagine. Successively the first, second, third waves — the cumulative impact on the exhaustion of healthcare workers can’t be understated,” said Danielle Larivee, the first vice president of the United Nurses of Alberta

Larivee says nurses are accustomed to illness and death, but not at the levels they’re seeing while they work short with high caseloads, mandatory overtime, and often, without breaks.

“It is definitely leading to some of them choosing to leave that profession.”

The union doesn’t have statistics on just how many are considering that as they wait on a national report.


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“I have seen so many people who are absolutely 100 per cent in love with their jobs, and know they are privileged to do what they do, who are saying ‘yeah if they call me, I’m not coming in. I’m done,’” said Urgent Care Physician Dr. Raj Bhardwaj

Bhardwaj says they feel as though their compassion is being tested.

“That’s what we do. We help to take care of people. But when we see a situation where we can stop this, we can work to slow this down, and our leaders are saying ‘no, the businesses have this. They’re showing leadership.’ It’s awfully frustrating and awfully demoralizing,” said Bhardwaj. “I’ve talked to a lot of healthcare workers who say they’re incredibly angry and that they’ve never really been angry before.”

Both Bhardwaj and Larivee are urging the government to enact public health measures.

“The lack of constraint on this and numbers that are huge and are looking like it could be the worst in terms of numbers at a time when healthcare workers are already exhausted is actually pretty dangerous,” said Larivee.