Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Japan nurses faced discrimination, quit jobs amid COVID-19 'first wave': survey

Toshiko Fukui, president of the Japanese Nursing Association, is seen talking about the conditions under which nurses are placed amid the "third wave" of coronavirus infections in the capital's Shibuya Ward on Dec. 15, 2020. (Mainichi/Takuya Yoshida)

TOKYO -- About 15% of hospitals across Japan had nurses that quit their jobs, and some 20% of nurses reported that they had experienced discrimination or prejudice amid the spread of the "first wave" of the coronavirus back in the spring, it was revealed in a survey by the Japanese Nursing Association.

    The study was conducted in September, and targeted nurses among others at hospitals in Japan, asking them about changes in labor conditions and employment separation during the period of the first wave of coronavirus infections when a state of emergency was issued in April. The results, which were announced on Dec. 22, showed that among the 2,765 valid responses from the nursing department chiefs of each hospital, 15.4% claimed that staff left their jobs during the period, while the percentage was 21.3% when limited to medical institutions designated for infectious diseases among other places. Apart from this, 20.5% of some 38,000 nurses answered that there was "discrimination or prejudice against staff members." Toshiko Fukui, president of the Japanese Nursing Association, commented, "Right now, amid this 'third wave' of infections, the situation should have gotten worse."

    In a press conference on Dec. 22, President Fukui said that an increased burden has been placed on nurses as they take countermeasures against infection, and gave the example that nurses are sometimes responsible for cleaning and changing bed sheets, on behalf of cleaning workers, in hospital wards with COVID-19 patients to prevent infections. There are also many hospitals that have set about cutting down on salaries and bonus payments as they struggle to sustain business while the number of new patients has decreased amid a tendency among people who fear infection to refrain from being examined, as well as a reduction in hospital beds due to the acceptance of COVID-19 patients. This has also apparently caused nurses to leave their jobs.

    Furthermore, Fukui introduced a case of discrimination and prejudice against nursing staff, who reportedly claimed, "Although I'm currently working out of a sense of duty, when I'm told things like, 'You're scattering and spreading infections,' I find myself questioning what I'm doing." Fukui also spoke of another case where staff who attended to an individual infected with the coronavirus while wearing protective gear were attacked by the patient saying, "Why are you in such dramatic attire?" Considering such realities, President Fukui insisted, "The health care field is being pushed to its limit. I'd like people to understand that there are cases where thoughtless words serve as a trigger, and nursing staff are unable to continue working."

    As for measures tackling labor shortages, 53.7% of valid responses from nursing department chiefs said that they will hire nurses currently not working in the field. However, 47.8%, or a slightly lesser proportion of medical institutions designated for infectious diseases, answered that they will hire such nurses, as they "cannot afford to provide education or training amid the spread of infections." This appears to be because a rise in patients with severe symptoms has been seen during the third wave of infections, and work-ready staff who have experience in intensive care units are in demand. The number of individuals who have nursing licenses but are not in the work force is said to reach 700,000, and the Japanese Nursing Association plans to demand that the national government organize a system that can keep track of the career backgrounds of such individuals moving forward.

    (Japanese original by Hitomi Tanimoto, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

    Also in The Mainichi

    The Mainichi on social media