Thursday 17 January 2019

Burnout worry for young oncologists

Young cancer doctors are struggling to cope with the high demands of their job, a major study has found.

Across Europe, more than 70pc of oncologists under 40 are showing symptoms of burnout that may affect their ability to care for patients, it has been claimed.

The findings, from a survey of 595 doctors in 41 European countries, were presented at the annual congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (Esmo) in Madrid.

Lead author Dr Susana Banerjee, a consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden NHS Trust in London, said: "Oncology is an exceptionally rewarding career, but it can be demanding and stressful at times.

"Oncologists make complex decisions about cancer management, supervise the use of toxic therapies, work long hours and face patients suffering and dying.

"Young oncologists are now facing increased administration, complaints/medico-legal issues, increasing expectations and workloads with reduced resources.

"These factors make oncologists at risk of developing burnout, a syndrome characterised by emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation (treating people as if they are objects) and loss of purpose in work."

Burnout can lead to serious consequences including anxiety, depression, alcohol or substance abuse and suicide, she said.


Burned-out doctors may also find it challenging to deliver compassionate care to their patients.

The study showed that rates of burnout varied across Europe. They were highest in central Europe, where 84pc of participants met the symptom criteria.

Lowest rates were found in the northern European countries, including the UK, where just over half (52pc) of young oncologists were affected.


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