Critical Care is an enormously rewarding speciality to work in. The work is constantly interesting and varied, such that it's possible to maintain a career long fascination with the speciality. There is emotional reward in the profound difference we can make, both individually and as a team to the life of our patients, and often also their relatives. As part of a multidisciplinary team we are also usually mutually very well supported and supportive in our jobs. By the very nature of critical care it can also be very demanding; leading to a drain on our physical and emotional reserves. This leads to fatigue. There is always a balance to maintain between the plusses of the job and the negatives.
Fatigue is defined as "extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness". Susceptibility to fatigue depends on many factors including those directly related to the individual, workload, home life, colleagues, critical care unit, and hospital. These factors fluctuate all the time including the effect and susceptibility to fatigue as we age, changes in our family life (young children, driving to care for elderly parents), and our own physical and mental health.
The onset of fatigue can be obvious - exhausted after being up all night desperately trying to save a patient, and the interaction with their family who also require explanations and care. Fatigue can also however be insidious and develop over months to years. It is very important that we look after ourselves, look out for our colleagues' welfare, and check in on the other members of the MDT. It's easy to forget in the rush to get home, that it may be safer and better to eat, drink fluids, and have a rest before travelling and putting yourself, and others at increased risk. It's also important that longer term factors are borne in mind; sleeping habits, social life, personal fitness, alcohol, caffeine, taking regular holidays and so forth, are all very important to pay attention to in our attempts to prevent fatigue.
For further details please check the resources below which the Faculty has worked closely with our colleagues in Anaesthetics at the AAGBI, and the RCoA to finalise.
The following resources are available: