New poll shows alarming number of union healthcare workers in Washington plan to leave profession


Shane Ersland


A new poll indicates that an alarming number of Washington’s healthcare workers are burned out and planning to leave the profession in the next few years.


Stay one step ahead. Join our email list for the latest news.



The poll—which was conducted by the United Food and Commercial Workers 3000 union, Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW, and the Washington State Nurses Association—found that 49% of healthcare workers in the state said they are “likely to leave the healthcare profession in the next few years.”

The survey was conducted from Feb. 2nd-6th and represents 1,200 healthcare workers, with 400 from each organization that participated in the poll. Among those who said they were likely to leave, 68% said short staffing was one of their primary reasons. Additionally, 79% said they were burned out and 45% said they feel unsafe at their job.

The survey showed that 94% of workers support establishing minimum staffing standards that limit the number of patients any one worker is taking care of at a time. Nearly half the workers (48%) reported patient harm at their hospitals, which they believed was due to short staffing.

Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) released a statement following the release of the poll. 

“We all know the last few years have been especially hard on healthcare workers,” Keiser said. “They have been stretched to the breaking point with tremendously increased demands on their time and effort. But it is still shocking to learn, as this poll shows, that half of healthcare workers in our state plan to leave the profession in the next few years. 

And 80% report they are burned out. That’s not safe for them, and it’s not safe for patients. How can we expect healthcare workers to continue their superhuman pandemic-era effort indefinitely? This shows why it’s so important to institute common-sense safe staffing standards to ensure that workers aren’t asked to take care of too many patients at a time.”

Legislators are currently reviewing several bills that could help address healthcare workforce challenges, including:

  • Senate Bill 5582, which would reduce barriers and expand educational opportunities to increase the state’s nurse workforce
  • SB 5499, which would enter Washington into the interstate nurse licensure compact
  • SB 5236, which would improve nurse and healthcare worker safety and patient care by establishing minimum staffing standards in hospitals
  • SB 5537, which would establish the Washington state hospital patient care unit staffing innovation collaborative