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Editorial |

Burnout Syndrome in ICU Caregivers: Time to Extinguish!

Stephen M. Pastores, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

FINANCIAL/NONFINANCIAL DISCLOSURES: The author has reported to CHEST the following: S. M. P. receives grant support from Spectral Diagnostics (principal investigator for septic shock trial) and Bayer HealthCare (principal investigator for gram-negative pneumonia trial in mechanically ventilated patients). He also served on the critical care advisory board for Theravance Biopharma and Bard Medical.

Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY

CORRESPONDENCE TO: Stephen M. Pastores, MD, FCCP, Critical Care Medicine Service, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Ave, C-1179, New York, NY 10065


Copyright 2016, American College of Chest Physicians. All Rights Reserved.


Chest. 2016;150(1):1-2. doi:10.1016/j.chest.2016.03.024
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Critical care physicians and nurses are all too familiar with the chronic high levels of stress associated with working in the ICU that can lead to the development of burnout syndrome (BOS). Burnout, initially coined by Freudenberger in 1974 and later defined as a psychological syndrome by Maslach in 1982 is characterized by high emotional exhaustion, feelings of depersonalization, and low levels of personal effectiveness or accomplishment. Among ICU physicians (intensivists), heavy patient workload, longer work hours, a large number of bureaucratic and computer-related tasks, an unsatisfactory work environment, and conflicts with fellow physicians or nurses are significant risk factors for BOS.,,, This year’s Medscape lifestyle report showed that critical care physicians were among the highest groups of practitioners expressing burnout, at 55%. Similarly, among ICU nurses, contributory factors to BOS and psychological disorders (posttraumatic stress, depression) include high patient acuity and nurse to patient ratios, lack of ancillary support, the moral distress related to delivery of perceived inappropriate care (especially for patients at the end of life), and poor interdisciplinary communication and collaboration in the ICU.,,,,, The consequences of BOS can be serious and affect not only the mental health and well-being of caregivers but also the institution with respect to staff turnover, poor job performance, lost productivity, increased numbers of medical errors and health care costs, decreased quality of care, and reduced patient satisfaction.,

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