Wellness and Coping of Physicians Who Worked in ICUs During the Pandemic: A Multicenter Cross-Sectional North American Survey

for the Diversity-Related Research Committee of the Women in Critical Care (WICC) Interest Group of the American Thoracic Society

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Few surveys have focused on physician moral distress, burnout, and professional fulfilment. We assessed physician wellness and coping during the COVID-19 pandemic. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey using four validated instruments. SETTING: Sixty-two sites in Canada and the United States. SUBJECTS: Attending physicians (adult, pediatric; intensivist, nonintensivist) who worked in North American ICUs. INTERVENTION: None. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: We analysed 431 questionnaires (43.3% response rate) from 25 states and eight provinces. Respondents were predominantly male (229 [55.6%]) and in practice for 11.8 ± 9.8 years. Compared with prepandemic, respondents reported significant intrapandemic increases in days worked/mo, ICU bed occupancy, and self-reported moral distress (240 [56.9%]) and burnout (259 [63.8%]). Of the 10 top-ranked items that incited moral distress, most pertained to regulatory/organizational (n = 6) or local/institutional (n = 2) issues or both (n = 2). Average moral distress (95.6 ± 66.9), professional fulfilment (6.5 ± 2.1), and burnout scores (3.6 ± 2.0) were moderate with 227 physicians (54.6%) meeting burnout criteria. A significant dose-response existed between COVID-19 patient volume and moral distress scores. Physicians who worked more days/mo and more scheduled in-house nightshifts, especially combined with more unscheduled in-house nightshifts, experienced significantly more moral distress. One in five physicians used at least one maladaptive coping strategy. We identified four coping profiles (active/social, avoidant, mixed/ ambivalent, infrequent) that were associated with significant differences across all wellness measures. CONCLUSIONS: Despite moderate intrapandemic moral distress and burnout, physicians experienced moderate professional fulfilment. However, one in five physicians used at least one maladaptive coping strategy. We highlight potentially modifiable factors at individual, institutional, and regulatory levels to enhance physician wellness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1689-1700
Number of pages12
JournalCritical care medicine
Volume50
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2022

Keywords

  • burnout
  • coping
  • moral distress
  • pandemic
  • wellness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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