“Not what we signed up for”: Nurse shortages, physician scarcity, and time for collective bargaining?

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The amount of distress and disengagement among many nurses and physicians has reached concerning levels in recent years. The result has been acute nurse shortages, significant increases in travel nursing, more physicians working fewer hours and retiring early, and urgent calls for change and reform. This analysis surveys many of the leading systemic contributors to nurse and physician demoralization. As the healthcare sector continues to experience more consolidation and increased investment by private equity and other corporate interests, physicians are increasingly becoming employees with similar forms of employment arrangements and pressures that nurses have had for decades. They are also becoming employees of the same larger health systems, hospitals, and corporate employers. These trends are leading to a convergence in the kind and intensity of pressures and problems that nurses and physicians face. As more medical residents and fellows increasingly turn to unionization and as growing numbers of nurses have gone on strike, both professions should consider the potential benefits of joining forces for the purposes of maintaining the autonomy they have left and to push for better conditions both for themselves and the patients for whom they care.

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