Supportive work environments may lessen risk.


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Studies have shown that clinicians working in critical care experience high levels of stress that can negatively affect their physical and mental health. A new study in the May American Journalof Critical Care, which focused on critical care nurses, found that over half of those surveyed reported suboptimal physical and mental health and had higher rates of medical errors than nurses in better health.


The study was based on a survey of 771 critical care nurses who responded to questions about overall health; depression, anxiety, and burnout symptoms; perceived worksite wellness support; and medical errors. Notably, the survey data were gathered prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which added to the stresses that critical care nurses and clinical staff normally experience.


Nurses who reported suboptimal mental and physical health (61%) acknowledged making "significantly more medical errors than nurses in better health," the researchers wrote. Overall, a high proportion of those surveyed reported some degree of depressive symptoms (39.5%), anxiety (53.2%), and stress (42.2%). But the nurses who perceived their worksites to be supportive of their well-being were twice as likely to report better physical health.


Hospitals and health care systems "need to make nurse and clinician well-being a priority," lead author Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, professor and dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State University, told AJN. "There is a substantial return on investment," she said, "when the well-being of clinicians is prioritized, including higher engagement and productivity, higher job satisfaction, fewer medical errors and less turnover, which is very costly." She suggested that health care systems create the position of "chief wellness officer" to address structural issues contributing to employee burnout and foster a "culture of well-being."-Roxanne Nelson


Melnyk BM, et al Am J Crit Care 2021;30(3):176-184.