Perceptions of Critical Care Shortages, Resource Use, and Provider Well-being During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Survey of 1,985 Health Care Providers in Brazil

Chest. 2022 Jun;161(6):1526-1542. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2022.01.057. Epub 2022 Feb 10.


Background: Brazil has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, placing a high burden on ICUs.

Research question: Are perceptions of ICU resource availability associated with end-of-life decisions and burnout among health care providers (HCPs) during COVID-19 surges in Brazil?

Study design and methods: We electronically administered a survey to multidisciplinary ICU HCPs during two 2-week periods (in June 2020 and March 2021) coinciding with COVID-19 surges. We examined responses across geographical regions and performed multivariate regressions to explore factors associated with reports of: (1) families being allowed less input in decisions about maintaining life-sustaining treatments for patients with COVID-19 and (2) emotional distress and burnout.

Results: We included 1,985 respondents (57% physicians, 14% nurses, 12% respiratory therapists, 16% other HCPs). More respondents reported shortages during the second surge compared with the first (P < .05 for all comparisons), including lower availability of intensivists (66% vs 42%), ICU nurses (53% vs 36%), ICU beds (68% vs 22%), and ventilators for patients with COVID-19 (80% vs 70%); shortages were highest in the North. One-quarter of HCPs reported that families were allowed less input in decisions about maintaining life-sustaining treatments for patients with COVID-19, which was associated with lack of intensivists (adjusted relative risk [aRR], 1.37; 95% CI, 1.05-1.80) and ICU beds (aRR, 1.71; 95% CI, 1.16-2.62) during the first surge and lack of N95 masks (aRR, 1.43; 95% CI, 1.10-1.85), noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (aRR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.18-2.07), and oxygen concentrators (aRR, 1.50; 95% CI, 1.13-2.00) during the second surge. Burnout was higher during the second surge (60% vs 71%; P < .001), associated with witnessing colleagues at one's hospital contract COVID-19 during both surges (aRR, 1.55 [95% CI, 1.25-1.93] and 1.31 [95% CI, 1.11-1.55], respectively), as well as worries about finances (aRR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.02-1.61) and lack of ICU nurses (aRR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.02-1.53) during the first surge.

Interpretation: During the COVID-19 pandemic, ICU HCPs in Brazil experienced substantial resource shortages, health care disparities between regions, changes in end-of-life care associated with resource shortages, and high proportions of burnout.

Keywords: Brazil; COVID-19; burnout; critical care resources; disparities; end-of-life care; health care disparities; resource utilization; surge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional* / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional* / therapy
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Critical Care
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pandemics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires