Perhaps more than any other healthcare workers, intensive care unit (ICU) personnel are prone to job burnout. Over time, the long hours, life or death situations, and moral dilemmas inherent in ICU care can overtax practitioners, leading to physical and emotional symptoms and often to serious personal problems.
Besides being a threat to the well-being of ICU staff, burnout poses a serious risk to patients in the form of substandard care, resulting in more complications, and greater morbidity and mortality. It is also a societal issue; the job turnover created by burnout disrupts continuity of care and costs millions of dollars in replacement personnel.
Even though the symptoms, consequences, and many of the problems may be the same for both professions, some root causes for burnout are different in ICU nurses and ICU physicians. Nursing stress is frequently a result of lack of control within an organization, while physicians are subject to long hours and the life or death consequences of ICU decision-making. The Maslach Burnout Index, the most widely used survey intended to identify those with burnout, looks for three main characteristics: exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.
Because job stress affects people in different ways, there is no single way to combat burnout in every practitioner. Some suggestions for avoiding burnout are introduced in this chapter, with the understanding that it is an ever-present threat to those who work in the ICU.
KeywordsBurnout Maslach Burnout Inventory Intensive care Exhaustion Depersonalization Reduced personal accomplishment Moral dilemmas End-of-life policies ICU staffing Sir William Osler Aequanimitas
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