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French nurses’ poll paints grim picture as virus cases soar

PARIS (AP) — A significant number of French nurses responding to a poll say they are tired and fed up, with 37% saying that the coronavirus pandemic is making them want to change jobs.

The poll published Sunday by the National Order of Nurses comes as COVID-19 infection rates soar across the nation.

French health authorities counted nearly 26,900 new daily infections Saturday and had four more cities join Paris and Marseille in the maximum alert category: Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne in the southeast and Lille in the north.

There were just under 5,000 new hospitalizations over the past week, with 928 of them in ICUs, and the positive rate for the increasing number of COVID-19 tests climbed to 11%. Nearly 32,690 coronavirus deaths have been counted in France, but the actual number is likely far higher, due to limited testing and missed cases.

Nearly 59,400 nurses responded to the Oct. 2-7 poll on the impact of the health crisis on their working conditions, out of 350,000 in the Order of Nurses. The numbers painted a grim diagnosis of the profession and suggested that French medical facilities may not be keeping pace with the growing need, despite lessons that should have been learned from the height of the virus crisis last spring.

Of nurses in public establishments, 43% feel that “we are not better prepared collectively to respond to a new wave of infections,” according to the poll. The figure rises to 46% for nurses in the private domain. And about two-thirds of respondents say their working conditions have deteriorated since the start of the crisis.

Burnout looms, the poll shows, with 57% of respondents saying they have been professionally exhausted since the start of pandemic, while nearly half saying there’s a strong risk that fatigue will impact the quality of care patients receive.


For 37% of the nurses responding, “the crisis … makes them want to change jobs,” and 43% “don’t know if they will still be nurses in five years,” according to the poll, which did not provide a margin of error.

The National Order of Nurses notes that 34,000 nurses’ jobs in France are currently vacant.

Nurses and other health professionals in France and elsewhere have sporadically demonstrated for higher salaries, better working conditions and more personnel, even during the pandemic. They were given small salary hikes in France starting this fall.

“Today, nurses must deal with a growth in COVID-19 cases and feel unarmed to do so,” the president of the National Order of Nurses, Patrick Chamboredon, said in a statement accompanying the poll.

With nurses “indispensable” to the functioning of the health system, “we cannot accept that,” he said.

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