New Recommendations Outline Approaches to Reduce Burnout in Oncology

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An article recently published in JCO Oncology Practice (JCO OP) written by the ASCO Ethics Committee focused on the causes of burnout in oncology, as well as intervention methods. The article provides recommendations for individuals, organizations, and the Society to address burnout and ensure delivery of ethical and quality cancer care. 

In a recent ASCO survey of member medical oncologists, 45% of respondents reported experiencing signs of burnout. There are many signs of burnout, including physical and/or emotional exhaustion, as well as cynicism and/or depersonalization. Burnout can affect the well-being of practitioners and patients under their care.

Causes and Consequences

While some causes of burnout are common for all physicians, the article notes that those practicing oncology experience unique challenges, such as continuous exposure to life-threatening illness, limited treatment options, and a sense of personal failure and grief upon the death of a patient.

The article describes personal and professional consequences of burnout, such as reduced problem-solving skills, professionalism, and productivity, and an increase in unethical behavior. Burnout can also cause organization- and system-wide consequences including loss of revenue, decreased patient satisfaction, and staff shortages. Ultimately, all of these factors impact quality of care.

Recommendations to Address Burnout in Oncology

The article describes many interventions that individuals and organizations can take, such as:

  • Recognizing the importance of oncology physician well-being to achieving its mission
  • Assessing burnout
  • Proactively engaging organizational leaders and physicians in collaborative action planning
  • Optimizing the clinical practice environment and institutional culture
  • Providing well-being resources.

The Ethics Committee also introduced three recommended actions for ASCO to take to address burnout widely in oncology:

  • Broaden clinical education resources
  • Establish clinician well-being and burnout as important quality metrics for oncology practices
  • Promote evidence development.

ASCO is committed to supporting these recommendations through programs and collaborative opportunities with outside organizations. To learn more about physician burnout, read the full article in JCO OP. 

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