Corona: Why Aren’t Hospital Workers Quitting?

Doctors who quit will find it quite hard to get re-hired. Nurses might also face scrutiny. Nurse’s assistants, maybe. Unskilled caregivers, probably not, because the bar for hiring is already very low and there’s already going to be a lot of turnover. Why aren’t we seeing mass quitting and wages rising to reflect the danger? I say it’s because it’s not in our cultural script for people to respond that way.

If they did, could we morally condemn them? I don’t think so. We condemn soldiers who desert because it’s part of the bargain when they sign up. I don’t think it’s part of the bargain for CNA’s at hospitals that they will have to be stuck there in the event of a pandemic. Many are “at-will employees.” For skilled workers, you could argue that they have a moral obligation to be there and you don’t because, obviously, you wouldn’t do any good in those jobs. But this would imply you are just as morally obligated to take an unskilled job caring for corona victims if there is a shortage of unskilled workers as those currently working them have to keep them. I think we condemn them for two reasons:

  1. Self-serving bias. Most of us want them there.
  2. The Copenhagen interpretation of ethics, in this case it is used to imply that hospital workers who don’t do anything to care for corona patients are morally to blame in a way ordinary people who don’t do anything are not. Needless to say, I don’t agree with this.

One could imagine a society in which it was accepted for hospital workers in this situation to demand more pay. We as a society could easily afford it just as we pay hazard pay to policemen, loggers, firefighters, soldiers, etc. Some would say the pay is not worth it, can’t enjoy money if you’re dead, and they would be replaced by daredevils who temporarily quit their jobs. The morons who say “it’s the flu” could be encouraged to take these high-paying roles temporarily, providing a mechanism for eugenic selection.

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