Nurturing the Spirit: A Look Into the Well-Being of Infection Preventionists

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In the dynamic realm of infection prevention, professionals face both the potential for impactful contributions and the risk of burnout. The delicate balance between the highs and lows prompts an exploration into factors influencing the well-being of infection preventionists.

Infection Control Today Topic of the Month: Mental Health

Infection Control Today Topic of the Month: Mental Health

A study conducted in 2021 and recently published in the American Journal of Infection Control aimed to unravel the intricate relationship between religiosity, spirituality, self-care practices, and the well-being of infection preventionists (IPs) in the US. The findings shed light on the multifaceted nature of their experiences, providing valuable insights for the health care community.

“As health systems consider opportunities to enhance the ability for clinicians to find meaning in the daily work of clinical care, both individual and system-level factors must be considered,” the authors wrote. “At the individual level, clinicians often bring their own sources of meaning into the work that they do that often arise out of particular commitments to a particular worldview or spiritual practice.”

Timing their survey during the COVID-19 pandemic, the investigators used multivariable logistic regression models. The survey captured responses from 415 hospitals’ infection prevention coordinators out of 881 questionnaires sent out. Despite 49% reporting burnout, 69% expressed the desire to choose the same career again, indicating a noteworthy level of career satisfaction, and only 17% of the IPs reported feeling less empathetic toward people since starting their jobs.

The significance of spiritual well-being emerges as a central theme, with 88% of respondents acknowledging its importance for emotional well-being. This nuanced connection between spiritual well-being and emotional resilience raises questions about the role of personal beliefs in navigating the challenges of infection prevention. IPs “reporting importance in spiritual well-being were more likely to report greater job satisfaction, after accounting for respondent job tenure and other hospital characteristics,” the authors wrote.

In exploring the intersection of spirituality, religiosity, and burnout, the study breaks new ground. The findings challenge preconceptions, revealing that infection preventionists who find spiritual well-being crucial are more likely to report greater job satisfaction. This connection introduces a dimension of meaning and purpose that extends beyond the daily challenges, offering a potential buffer against burnout.

The investigators “sought to examine the role of self-reported religious and spiritual beliefs in infection preventionists and how these beliefs correlated with self-reported measures of burnout. While the role of religion and spirituality has been examined in patients living with infectious diseases,

the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of people working to prevent the spread of infectious diseases has not been examined.”

The study prompts a reflection on the broader concept of eudemonia, encapsulating various facets of well-being. Those who affirm the importance of spiritual well-being for emotional health may hold a worldview that intertwines positive emotional states with a higher sense of purpose derived from spiritual practices. This balance between spirituality, emotional well-being, and job satisfaction unfolds a narrative of fulfillment and commitment.

“Given that we know that many clinicians are religious, we should not be surprised that these commitments inform the way they see the meaning, calling, and purpose in their work and that these spiritual and religious beliefs are part of their identities,” the authors wrote.

It is important to acknowledge the limitations of the study, which may include potential self-selection bias. Doing so can help identify areas for future research. The call to explore specific beliefs through qualitative methods and employ validated scales to assess the integration of work and faith adds depth to the ongoing conversation.

Reference:

Collier KM, Greene MT, Gilmartin HM, Fowler KE, Saint S. The role of spirituality, religiosity, and self-care on infection preventionist well-being: Results from a national survey in the United States. Am J Infect Control. 2023 Dec 19:S0196-6553(23)00846-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2023.12.006. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 38122935.

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