Does stress influence the performance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation? A narrative review of the literature

J Crit Care. 2021 Jun:63:223-230. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2020.09.020. Epub 2020 Sep 25.


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation represents a major physical and psychological challenge for all involved health care workers because survival of the patients is closely related to the timely and accurate actions of rescuers. Consequently, rescuers may experience high levels of acute mental stress. Stress, in turn, may influence attentional resources and distractibility, which may affect the quality of resuscitation. This narrative review summarizes the current state of research concerning the influence of stress on resuscitation performance. Peer-reviewed studies retrieved in scientific databases were eligible. We found that rescuers experience high levels of stress and some associations of higher levels of stress with lower resuscitation performance. Finally, few interventional studies assessed whether interventions aiming at reducing levels of stress may have a beneficial effect on resuscitation performance, but results are variable. Although the mechanisms linking stress to performance of emergency teams are still not fully understood, factors such as individual experience and self-confidence of rescuers, gender composition and hierarchy within resuscitation teams may play an important role. This review provides a targeted overview of how stress can be defined and measured, how it may influence emergency situations such as a cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and which interventions have the potential to reduce overwhelming stress.

Keywords: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation; Outcome; Performance; Stress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy