Canadian Journal of Respiratory Therapy (Dec 2022)

Burnout among respiratory therapists during COVID-19 pandemic

  • Anna Spirczak,
  • Ramandeep Kaur,
  • David L. Vines

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 58
pp. 191 – 198


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Background: Respiratory therapists (RTs) faced many unpredicted challenges and higher stress levels while managing critically ill patients with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This study’s primary objective was to evaluate the compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue among RTs in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: This cross-sectional, descriptive, survey-based study conducted from July 2020 to August 2020 was administered to all active members of the American Association of Respiratory Care via AARConnect. RTs’ characteristics including personal, job-specific, and organizational factors were collected. Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL, version 5) was used to measure compassion satisfaction and fatigue. Results: A total of 218 participants fully completed the survey, 143 (65.6%) were female, 107 (49.1%) were between 35 and 54 years of age and 72 (33%) were above 55 years of age. Compassion satisfaction was moderate in 123 (56.4%) and high in 93 (42.7%) RTs. Higher compassion satisfaction was found in RTs who have a higher salary (P = 0.003), work overtime (P = 0.01), hold leadership positions (P < 0.001), work in research/education (P < 0.001) and work for departments that provide help in managing burnout and stress (P = 0.007) and that promote a positive work environment (P < 0.001). Burnout score was low in 90 (41.3%) and moderate in 127 (58.3%) RTs. Higher burnout was found among younger RTs (P = 0.019), those with fewer years of experience (P = 0.013) and those with less than a year at their current job (P = 0.045). Secondary traumatic stress (STS) was low in 106 (48.6%) and moderate in 112 (51.4%) RTs. Higher STS levels were noted among younger RTs (P = 0.02) and RTs with lower education levels (P = 0.016). Conclusion: This survey study identified various personal, job and organizational-related factors associated with increased compassion satisfaction as well as compassion fatigue among RTs.