Long time, “to be burned” at work could go from being a colloquial expression to become a major problem.

Professional exhaustion indexes (or Burnout) in the Health collective are reaching frankly troubling levels, most likely for us who are dedicated to intensive care. We are more exposed to suffer the syndrome, or at least some of their symptoms and or the consequences, not only for ourselves, but also for patients, colleagues and for the health care system.

In a recent publication on Medscape, the intensivists of United States have been “awarded” with the highest rate of Burnout in the country. And what is more alarming is the devastating incidence data, 55%.

In Spain, unfortunately, we do not have studies of this type and even less on an annual basis. The last of the studies that were carried out in our country was in 2008, at a single hospital in Madrid, and the data were around 15%.

Are we now approaching to the U.S. data? Sincerely, I don´t think so, but certainly what is not measured, looks like doesn´t exist and that brings us to deception. We can´t be aware of a problem that we need to manage soon. Because it will lead us to figures of genuine concern.

Because burnout exits, for sure.

People who are dedicated to Intensive Care (and this is a common perception, both from within and from outside) are exposed to stress and distressing situations, among other things, because lives of our patients are on our hands and the tranquility and the hope of their families are deposited in us.

Facing with life-threatening diseases, which can be devastating to the patient and the family, reporting bad news, the consolation and desolation of the pain of a family, the loss of life, it is a heavy burden. But that thanks to our vocation, our professionalism, and our belief that we are doing always everything possible, that we can always help, that load is lighter. 

But, and here is the key, when we feel that we are losing our vocation, when we believe that our work is useless, when we think that we no longer have anything to contribute, then those charges become unbearable and they make us to burn in the flames of the burnout.

source: IntraMed

And how I get this point? When did I lose my vocation? When did I feel useless? At the time that converged, for a time, an absence of fulfilled expectations (humanistic, moral, professional, personal) and a lack of selfcare and institutional care.

Suffering from this syndrome is not due to purely individual issues of vulnerability, weakness, psychological problems or personal characteristics. It derives mainly from an interaction of the professional with harmful psychosocial work conditions. Here we put the wage, the shifts, insufficient rest, lack of participation in organizational issues, little training conflicts among mates, the lack of teamwork, architecturally harmful spaces, lack of mission and goals of the institution, and a long etcetera.

Society and organizations have the moral duty and the ethical imperative of “caring for caregivers”. It is time to get to work on this issue and begin to take steps to prevent the fire could burn our illusions.

Dr. José Manuel Gómez García.
Intensive Care Physician and IC-HU Project research member.
Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, Madrid.