High Rates of Burnout in Dialysis Patient Care Technicians

Full access

Close to 60% of US dialysis patient care technicians (PCTs) meet criteria for burnout, suggests a national survey study in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

A survey was sent to members of the National Association of Nephrology Technicians/Technologists in the spring of 2022. The survey included Likert scale (0–4) items related to professional fulfillment and two key burnout domains: work exhaustion and interpersonal disengagement, and a yes or no question assessing turnover intention. Burnout was a combined score of 1.3 or higher for work exhaustion and interpersonal disengagement. Professional fulfillment was defined by a score of 3 or higher.

Responses were received from 228 PCTs: 83.9% women, 42.6% between 35 and 49 years of age, and 64.6% White. Nearly three-fourths (72.8%) of respondents reported working 40 or more hours per week.

Median scores were 2.3 for work exhaustion, 1.0 for interpersonal disengagement, and 2.6 for professional fulfillment. Burnout criteria were met by 57.5% of respondents, whereas only 37.3% met the cutoff for professional fulfillment. Factors related to burnout and professional fulfillment included salary for 66.5% of respondents, supervisor support for 64.0%, respect from other staff members for 57.8%, sense of purpose at work for 54.5%, and weekly working hours for 52.9%.

In response to the turnover question, just 52.6% of respondents said they planned to be working as a dialysis PCT in 3 years. In free-text comments, the PCTs re-emphasized issues related to excessive work burden and lack of respect.

The findings raise concerns about the very high burnout risk among US dialysis PCTs, with correspondingly low rates of professional fulfillment. Turnover is a critical concern, as nearly half of respondents do not plan to continue working as PCTs in the future. The researchers conclude: “Because of the critical, frontline role of dialysis PCTs in the care of patients receiving in-center hemodialysis, strategies to improve morale and reduce turnover are imperative” [Plantinga LC, et al. Professional fulfillment, burnout, and turnover intention among US dialysis patient care technicians: A national survey. Am J Kidney Dis, published online ahead of print March 9, 2023. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2022.12.017; https://www.ajkd.org/article/S0272-6386(23)00559-0/fulltext].