Increased burnout and decreased professional fulfillment among intensive care physicians is partly due to intensive care unit (ICU) workload. Although the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic increased ICU workload, it also may have increased feelings of personal fulfillment due to positive public perceptions of physicians caring for COVID patients. We surveyed critical care anesthesiologists to identify the effect of provider demographics, ICU workload, and COVID-19–related workload, on professional fulfillment and burnout.
We performed an exploratory survey of 606 members of the Society of Critical Care Anesthesiologists (SOCCA) in January and February 2022. We used the Stanford Professional Fulfillment Index (PFI) to grade levels of professional fulfillment and markers of burnout (ie, work exhaustion and disengagement). Univariable and multivariable models were used to identify associations between provider demographics and practice characteristics and professional fulfillment and work exhaustion.
One hundred and seventy-five intensivists (29%) responded. A total of 65% were male and 49% were between 36 and 45 years old. The overall median PFI score—0 (none) to 24 (most professional fulfillment)—was 17 (IQR, 1–24), with a wide distribution of responses. In multivariable analysis, factors associated with higher professional fulfillment included age >45 years (P=.004), ≤15 weeks full-time ICU coverage in 2020 (P=.02), role as medical director (P=.01), and nighttime home call with supervision of in-house ICU fellows (P=.01).
Professional fulfillment and work exhaustion in this cross-sectional survey were associated with several demographic and practice characteristics but not COVID-19–related workload, suggesting that COVID-19 workload may not have either positive or negative perceptions on professional fulfillment.
- Question: Are physician demographics, intensive care unit (ICU) call structure and coronavirus disease (COVID)-19 workload associated with professional fulfillment or burnout among critical care anesthesiologists?
- Findings: Although COVID-19–related workload did not impact professional fulfillment or work exhaustion among critical care anesthesiologists, older physicians, those with fewer weeks of annual ICU coverage, and those practicing in a home call model experienced more professional fulfillment, whilst those taking in-house call and covering >15 weeks per year experienced more burnout.
- Meaning: Feelings of professional fulfillment and symptoms of burnout vary widely among critical care anesthesiologists and are impacted by demographics and call burdens.