Doctors with Disabilities Push for Change as Long COVID Affects Their Workforce (from Time Magazine)

Read the full article by Abigail Abrams on the Time website. Start reading below…

“As the third year of the pandemic continues, doctors with disabilities are pushing the medical field to improve its treatment of disabled health professionals. An increasing number of people have Long Covid and need accommodations at work, and in the health care workforce, their ability to stay in their profession will be critical to helping patients also suffering from the little-understood condition.

One in five American adults who has been infected with COVID-19 has some lingering symptoms that can be considered Long COVID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found this spring. While symptoms vary widely, Long COVID can cause health problems including brain fog, fatigue, shortness of breath, and headaches that significantly affect people’s ability to function on a daily basis. The federal government is preparing to release two reports on Long COVID in August. These ongoing health issues were likely keeping 1.6 million Americans out of the workforce earlier this year, according to an estimate from Brookings in January, and that has almost certainly increased. Katie Bach, the economist behind that estimate, recently told Congress that it’s likely about 4 million people—or 2.4% of the U.S. employed population—have a reduced ability to work because of Long COVID.

The impact on the health care workforce, experts say, could be devastating. “For those physicians and nurses that didn’t lose their lives to COVID,” says Lisa Meeks, a disability expert and assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, “they may very well lose their livelihood.” Meeks adds that the situation is especially dire given how many Americans with Long COVID may need care in the coming months and years. “We need these people in the workforce,” she says.

While it’s not clear precisely how many health professionals will end up with Long COVID, a study published in the journal BMJ in 2020 found that health care workers were seven times as likely to have severe COVID-19 as those not in frontline jobs. Health care workers have also experienced intense burnout, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues during the pandemic, with turnover rates skyrocketing. A Morning Consult report last winter found that nearly one in five health care workers had quit their jobs during the pandemic, and now more than 2.7 million have left their jobs this year alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s part of why Meeks and a growing movement of doctors, medical students, and other health care workers are trying to transform their profession…

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By Meaghan Wood (She/Her)
Meaghan Wood (She/Her) Career Coach