Moral Distress and Other Wellness Measures in Canadian Critical Care Physicians
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Rationale: Understanding the magnitude of moral distress and its associations may point to solutions. Objectives: To understand the magnitude of moral distress and other measures of wellness in Canadian critical care physicians, to determine any associations among these measures, and to identify potentially modifiable factors. Methods: This was an online survey of Canadian critical care physicians whose e-mail addresses were registered with either the Canadian Critical Care Society or the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group. We used validated measures of moral distress, burnout, compassion fatigue, compassion satisfaction, and resilience. We also measured selected individual, practice, and workload characteristics. Results: Of the 499 physicians surveyed, 239 (48%) responded and there were 225 usable surveys. Respondents reported moderate scores of moral distress (107 ± 59; mean ± standard deviation, maximum 432), one-third of respondents had considered leaving or had previously left a position because of moral distress, about one-third met criteria for burnout syndrome, and a similar proportion reported medium-high scores of compassion fatigue. In contrast, about one-half of respondents reported a high score of compassion satisfaction, and overall, respondents reported a moderate score of resilience. Each of the "negative" wellness measures (moral distress, burnout, and compassion fatigue) were associated directly with each of the other "negative" wellness measures, and inversely with each of the "positive" wellness measures (compassion satisfaction and resilience), but moral distress was not associated with resilience. Moral distress was lower in respondents who were married or partnered compared with those who were not, and the prevalence of burnout was lower in respondents who had been in practice for longer. There were no differences in any of the wellness measures between adult and pediatric critical care physicians. Conclusions: Canadian critical care physicians report moderate scores of moral distress, burnout, and compassionate fatigue, and moderate-high scores of compassion satisfaction and resilience. We found no modifiable factors associated with any wellness measures. Further quantitative and qualitative studies are needed to identify interventions to reduce moral distress, burnout, and compassion fatigue.
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