“Sacred Pause” in the ICU: Evaluation of a Ritual and Intervention to Lower Distress and Burnout

Sumit Kapoor, Christopher K. Morgan, Muhammad Asim Siddique, Kalpalatha K. Guntupalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Increased exposure to deaths in the intensive care unit (ICU) generate grief among ICU staff, which remains unresolved most of the time. Unresolved grief becomes cumulative and presents a risk factor for burnout. “sacred pause” is a ritual performed at patient’s death to honor the lost life and recognize the efforts of the health-care team. Objective: To study the impact of the ritual of sacred pause on the attitudes and behaviors of the ICU physicians and nurses. Methods: Ten-question online anonymous survey was sent to ICU physicians and nurses in the medical ICU of a tertiary care hospital in July 2017. Results: Thirty-four ICU team members completed the survey including 12 physicians and 22 nurses. Seventy sacred pause rituals were performed from July 2016 to June 2017. Seventy-nine percent respondents believed that the ritual brought closure and helped them overcome the feelings of disappointment, grief, distress, and failure after the death of their patient in ICU. Seventy-three percent agreed that the ritual has instilled and encouraged a sense of team effort. Eighty-two percent responded that the ritual makes their efforts feel appreciated. Many felt that the ritual should be a universal phenomenon in all ICUs. Only 55% respondents felt that the practice has a potential to decrease ICU burnout, many of them (42%) were undecided. Conclusion: Sacred pause brings closure, prevents cumulative grief and distress, builds resilience, promotes team effort, and improves professional satisfaction of ICU team. It may lower burnout syndrome in ICU, but further studies are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1337-1341
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • ICU
  • burnout
  • distress
  • grief
  • sacred pause

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of '“Sacred Pause” in the ICU: Evaluation of a Ritual and Intervention to Lower Distress and Burnout'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this