Healthcare News & Insights

Survey: Less than 50% of first-responders willing to work a lethal pandemic

Emergency services personnel are known for their mettle — but new research shows even they have a breaking point.

Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health surveyed 1,100 essential workers about their willingness and ability to work during a potentially lethal pandemic. All responses were anonymous.

The researchers found that 80% of workers expected to be able and available to report to work, but only 65% were willing to do so. All told, that left fewer than 50% of key personnel both able and willing to report for work when the risks were highest.

Several factors affected which workers were willing to show up for work under the hypothetical conditions of the survey. Public health workers were most willing (74%) while correctional workers were the least willing (only 56%).

Workers were also more likely to say they were willing to report if their workplace had safety measures in place already, and they had a high degree of trust in the employer’s ability to protect their health. Other factors that led to increased willingness to work during a crisis:

  • pandemic vaccine programs
  • an established pandemic plan
  • employer-provided respirators, and
  • prior experience working during a pandemic.

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