Health professionals working in critical care settings have one of the highest rates of burnout syndrome, with nearly half of the workforce exhibiting symptoms, a US report has warned.
The report was published by the Critical Care Societies Collaborative, a group of four professional organisations – the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Thoracic Society, and Society of Critical Care Medicine.
“Everyone has a part to play in decreasing burnout”
According to the report, from 25 to 33% of critical care nurses manifest symptoms of severe burnout syndrome, and up to 86% have at least one of the three classic symptoms – exhaustion, depersonalisation, and reduced personal accomplishment.
In nurses, burnout is associated with reduced quality of care, lower patient satisfaction, increased number of medical errors, higher rates of health care associated infections, and higher 30-day patient mortality rates.
Meanwhile, the report said up to 45% of critical care physicians report symptoms of severe burnout syndrome, while 71% of paediatric critical care specialists do so.
Overall, the report suggested that the high burnout syndrome rate in critical care professionals could be attributed to the especially stressful environment in ICU due to high patient morbidity and mortality, challenging daily work routines, and regular encounters with traumatic and ethical issues.
It warned that burnout in critical care health care professionals may result in post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol abuse and even suicidal thoughts.
The collaborative is calling on researchers, educators, employers, policy-makers and clinicians themselves to find ways of helping mitigate the development of burnout in ICU staff.
It is looking into ways to combat burnout syndrome in the ICU, including analysing current research on related topics.
Two potential strategies for dealing with burnout include interventions focused on enhancing the ICU environment and helping individuals cope with their environment, it said.
It also cited a study published in the journal Academic Medicine that showed the use of mindfulness training in healthcare professionals had demonstrated beneficial effects, such as improved attentiveness and responsiveness to patients’ concerns.
Report co-author Dr Marc Moss, from the University of Colorado and president-elect of the American Thoracic Society, said: “We can’t take care of patients if we don’t take care of each other.
“An increased commitment to research on burnout syndrome is a necessary first step,” he said. “Everyone has a part to play in decreasing burnout.
Critical care nurses at high risk of burnout
“A full collaborative effort is required among researchers, educators, professional societies, patient advocacy groups, funding agencies, policy makers and ourselves as critical care health care professionals,” added Dr Moss.
Dr Curt Sessler, senior author and immediate past president of the American College of Chest Physicians, noted that there were around 500,000 critical care nurses practicing in the US.
“We believe that protecting the mental and physical health of healthcare professionals who are at risk for burnout syndrome is vitally important for not only the professionals but for all stakeholders, including our patients,” he said.