ICU clinicians face high rates of burnout, study finds

doc burnout

Critical care professionals have one of the highest rates of burnout in the healthcare industry, and a new study offers solutions to help prevent it in those who work in the ICU.

The study, published by the Critical Care Societies Collaborative, analyzed data collected by the Cochrane Library and Medline over the past 10 years and found that up to 45 percent of critical care physicians reported severe burnout, and for those in pediatric critical care the rate was 71 percent. The team defined burnout syndrome as emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress.


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Critical care nurses also had high rates of burnout, according to the study. Between 25 and 33 percent of nurses in the ICU had multiple symptoms of severe burnout, and 81 percent had at least one symptom. Burnout among nurses may negatively impact their performance on the job, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

The study team pointed to the high-pressure environment of the ICU and the high mortality rate of patients in the unit as major contributors to the stress of critical care clinicians. They called on all of the stakeholders involved, including clinicians themselves, friends, family and hospital administrators, to work together to tackle the issue.

"Everyone has a part to play in decreasing burnout syndrome,” Marc Moss, M.D., study co-author and co-chair of clinical research at the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said in an announcement of the findings. “We can't take care of patients if we don't take care of each other.”

A continued dedication to researching and monitoring the condition is the first step, Moss said. The team also said that leaders can focus on enhancing the environment of the ICU and helping staff in critical care cope with the challenges that come with that demanding unit.

The study also notes that mindfulness training has been beneficial in some cases as well, improving responsiveness and attentiveness to patient needs. Physicians can also delegate tasks to other staffers and decline obligations that might overstress them, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

- here’s the study
- read the announcement

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