Critical care teams are less likely to burn out if they contain a high proportion of female nurses, according to researchers.
They found being male, being a healthcare assistant, having no children and being aged under 40 were all risk factors for burnout among members of ICU teams. The proportion of female nurses also impacted on the prevalence of burnout among the whole intensive care unit team.
The findings may “open a new frontier” concerning burnout in ICU which reveals the “importance of team composition”, they said.
The researchers, from the University of Geneva in Switzerland, assessed more than 3,000 ICU staff – including doctors, nurses and HCAs – from 74 units on their personal characteristics, stress levels and risk of burnout. They also studied the demographic make-up of teams.
Lead author Paolo Merlani told Nursing Times that, based on the findings, “male nurses were 50% more at risk to be in burnout compared to female nurses”.
He added that a “team with 55% of female nurses is twice as likely to experience burnout than a team with 80% of female nurses”.
Dr Merlani the findings were especially important due to shortages in critical care nurses but he acknowledged they needed to be confirmed by further research.
He said: “In the meanwhile, ICU heads should ascertain that personnel at higher risk would be especially taken care of, and that resources should be provided to afford psychological support and promote a team culture.”
Dr Merlani suggested that men were less likely to “admit their distress” than women, which formed part of a “vicious cycle” leading to burnout.
He added: “Whether the results can be exported to other medical settings where team-working is pivotal remains for the moment an interesting question to be investigated.”
The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.