Review Article| Volume 20, ISSUE 3, P541-547, July 2004

Caring for the caregiver

      Caring for patients is a stressful endeavor. Taking responsibility for the life of an ill person caries with it tremendous benefits and burdens. For a patient, the benefit lies clearly in the restoration of health, and the possibility of a return to a normal, or acceptable lifestyle. The burden for the patient lies, ultimately, in the possibility of death, but also, in the potential for pain and discomfort during the healing process and, even worse, in the risk of partial success leading to chronic disability and discomfort. But what about the clinician? What benefit and burden do clinicians experience in the process of caring for patients? For caregivers, the benefit lies in diagnosis and management of a patients' illness that leads to recovery deemed satisfactory to the patient. Clinicians are fond of talking about the enormous satisfaction derived from seeing a patient recover and return to a valued life. Needless to say, this is particularly true for critical care clinicians, who witness patients come close to death and then ultimately recover and return to their families. Every critical care clinician will be able to describe the sense of satisfaction, and yes, pride, experienced when, after a protracted intensive care unit (ICU) stay, a patient returns much later walking and looking healthy. But what about the burden to clinicians? Much has been written about burnout in clinical settings. Surprisingly, very little has been written about burnout among critical care clinicians, even though it is a common topic of conversation in physician and nursing lounges.
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