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Cancer Therapy AdvisorTaming the Flames of Burnout in Oncology

Burnout in Oncology: Unpacking the Crisis and the Path Forward

The escalating crisis of burnout among oncology healthcare workers is a pressing issue that demands immediate attention. This article provides an in-depth analysis of the causes, implications, and potential solutions to this pervasive problem, highlighting the urgent need for systemic changes in the healthcare landscape.

Key Points

  • Up to 54% of doctors and nurses were experiencing burnout even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has identified burnout as a significant concern in oncology.
  • Burnout symptoms include emotional exhaustion, depersonalization/detachment, and can lead to serious health conditions.
  • Younger, early-career oncologists are at a greater risk of developing burnout.
  • The ASCO Clinician Well-Being Task Force has outlined steps for individuals and health organizations to prevent burnout and promote wellness.
  • Pilot programs and initiatives aimed at promoting wellness and preventing burnout have shown promising results.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has added fuel to the burnout crisis, causing significant disruption in cancer care.
  • Dr. Fay Hlubocky, co-chair of the Clinician Well-Being Task Force, has been a leading voice in addressing burnout in oncology.
  • Community cancer practices and academic cancer centers have implemented modifications such as the use of telemedicine, flexible workweek schedules, team-based care, and enhancements in EHR technology.
  • Additional resources have been provided for oncologists, including access to coaching, counseling, professional development, and peer support.
  • Several other programs have reported promising results in promoting wellness and preventing burnout. These include a mindfulness intervention conducted via Zoom in a radiation program in Toronto, a wellness program initiated by hematology-oncology fellows at Yale School of Medicine, and a 3-year Art of Oncology curriculum developed by a hematology-oncology program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • The ASCO Clinician Well-Being Task Force has an ongoing 5-year plan of education, research, and advocacy. They will measure their success by asking members to assess the impact of ASCO initiatives.

“Healthcare systems and academic centers are responding, yet we know that large-scale systematic change is required to fully address the burnout crisis in oncology. We have much to do.”
— Fay Hlubocky, PhD, MA, co-chair of the Clinician Well-Being Task Force

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