Burnout Among Respiratory Therapists Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Respiratory care


washington; everett; prmc; covid-19


BACKGROUND: Burnout is a major challenge in health care and is associated with poor overall well-being, increased medical errors, worse patient outcomes, and low job satisfaction. There is scant literature focused on the respiratory therapist's (RT) experience of burnout, and a thorough exploration of RTs' perception of factors associated with burnout has not been reported. The aim of this qualitative study was to understand the factors associated with burnout as experienced by RTs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: We performed a post hoc, qualitative analysis of free-text responses from a survey of burnout prevalence in RTs.

RESULTS: There were 1,114 total and 220 free-text responses. Five overarching themes emerged from the analysis: staffing, workload, physical/emotional consequences, lack of effective leadership, and lack of respect. Respondents discussed feelings of anxiety, depression, and compassion fatigue as well as concerns that lack of adequate staffing, high workload assignments, and inadequate support from leadership contributed to feelings of burnout. Specific instances of higher patient acuity, surge in critically ill patients, rapidly evolving changes in treatment recommendations, and minimal training and preparation for an extended scope of practice were reported as stressors that led to burnout. Some respondents stated that they felt a lack of respect for both the RT profession and the contribution of RTs to patient care.

CONCLUSIONS: Themes associated with burnout in RTs included staffing, workload, physical and emotional exhaustion, lack of effective leadership, and lack of respect. These results provide potential targets for interventions to combat burnout among RTs.

Clinical Institute

Mental Health


Behavioral Health


Infectious Diseases


Pulmonary Medicine