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One in Three VA ICU Nurses Suffer “Burnout”; Related to Longer Patient Lengths of Stay

New York, NY – May 4, 2020 – ICU nurse “burnout” may have serious consequences for nurses as well as for patients, according to a study posted online in the Abstract Issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (Abstract #13051. Title: Characterizing Trends in ICU Nurse Burnout in VA and Relation to Outcomes).

“We expected to find a close relationship between burnout and intent to turnover and rating of the workplace as a ‘best place to work’,” said lead author Lakshmana Swamy, MD, MBA, pulmonary/critical care fellow at Boston Medical Center/VA Boston Healthcare.  “We were surprised, however, to find a relationship with tangible patient outcomes including length of stay.”

When proposing this study, Dr. Swamy and colleagues knew of previous studies with mixed results looking at hospital length of stay and burnout, but they were not aware of such studies that focused on the critical care setting.

The researchers studied burnout in critical care nurses practicing at VA hospitals nationwide during a five year period. They characterized hospital-level burnout rates over time, and divided sites into three clusters - high, medium, and low burnout. They found that compared to the lowest burnout cluster, medium and high burnout sites were less likely to be rated as a "best place to work" and had higher rates of intent to leave their jobs among critical care nurses. They also found significantly increased length of stay in the highest burnout cluster.


“Critical care leadership should consider evaluating and responding to drivers of burnout in their local workplaces to improve outcomes for clinicians and patients,” commented Dr. Swamy.


He added, “The impact of burnout on length of stay may relate to inefficiencies in patient care that prolong illness and contribute to delays in transfer of care. There is a critical need to address factors influencing burnout in the ICU as patients, clinicians, and health systems suffer when intensive care clinicians burn out.”