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Burnout in critical care nurses: a literature review.

Burnout and its development in critical care nurses is a concept that has received extensive study, yet remains a problem in Canada and around the world. Critical care nurses are particularly vulnerable to developing burnout due to the chronic occupational stressors they are exposed to, including high patient acuity, high levels of responsibility, working with advanced technology, caring for families in crisis, and involved in morally distressing situations, particularly prolonging life unnecessarily. The purpose of this article is to explore how the chronic stressors that critical care nurses are exposed to contribute to the development of burnout, and strategies for burnout prevention. A review of the literature between the years 2007 and 2012 was conducted and included the search terms burnout, moral distress, compassion fatigue, intensive care, critical care, and nursing. The search was limited to the adult population, English language, and Western cultures. The results revealed that nurse managers play a crucial role in preventing burnout by creating a supportive work environment for critical care nurses. Strategies for nurse managers to accomplish this include being accessible to critical care nurses, fostering collegial relationships among the different disciplines, and making a counsellor or grief team available to facilitate debriefing after stressful situations, such as a death. In addition, critical care nurses can help prevent burnout by being a support system for each other and implementing self-care strategies.

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