, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 55-61
Date: 30 Nov 2011

Suffering among carers working in critical care can be reduced by an intensive communication strategy on end-of-life practices

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Burnout syndrome (BOS) has frequently been reported in healthcare workers, and precipitating factors include communication problems in the workplace and stress related to end-of-life situations. We evaluated the effect of an intensive communication strategy on BOS among caregivers working in intensive care (ICU).


Longitudinal, monocentric, before-and-after, interventional study. BOS was evaluated using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and depression using the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) in 2007 (period 1) and 2009 (period 2). Between periods, an intensive communication strategy on end-of-life practices was implemented, based on improved organisation, better communication, and regular staff meetings.


Among 62 caregivers in the ICU, 53 (85%) responded to both questionnaires in period 1 and 49 (79%) in period 2. We observed a significant difference between periods in all three components of the MBI (emotional exhaustion, p = 0.04; depersonalization p = 0.04; personal accomplishment, p = 0.01). MBI classified burnout as severe in 15 (28%) caregivers in period 1 versus 7 (14%) in period 2, p < 0.01, corresponding to a 50% risk reduction. Symptoms of depression as evaluated by the CES-D were present in 9 (17%) caregivers in period 1 versus 3 (6%) in period 2, p < 0.05, corresponding to a risk reduction of almost 60%.


The implementation of an active, intensive communication strategy regarding end-of-life care in the ICU was associated with a significant reduction in the rate of burnout syndrome and depression in a stable population of caregiving staff.