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Eur J Cancer. 2010 Oct;46(15):2708-15. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2010.05.014. Epub 2010 Jun 4.

Prevalence and causes of burnout amongst oncology residents: a comprehensive nationwide cross-sectional study.

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  • 1SFjRO, French Society of Young Radiation Oncologists, 45 rue des Saints Pères, 75006 Paris, France.



Burnout syndrome occurs frequently amongst oncology healthcare workers. It has a detrimental effect on the patient-physician relationship. Little is known about the prevalence and causes of burnout amongst junior doctors in oncology.


An anonymous questionnaire was sent out to every medical or radiation oncology or haematology resident in France (n=340). It included: demographical data, burnout level (Maslach Burnout Inventory), sources of stress, sense of equity at work, sources of support, and general health questions. Validated scales were used when available. Two reminder e-mails were sent to increase the response rate.


Questionnaires were despatched during Spring 2009. The response rate was 60% (204/340). Emotional exhaustion (EE) and Depersonalisation (DP), the major components of burnout, were reported, respectively, by 26% (n=53) and 35% (n=72) of the residents. Burnout prevalence was 44% (n=89), defined as a severely abnormal level of either EE or DP. Eighteen percent of the residents (n=36) had severely abnormal levels of both EE and DP. The burnout level was not significantly different between the three specialties, but was higher amongst residents who do not feel adequately rewarded for their work (p<0.001). Burnout was associated with a lower perception of one's general health status (p<0.001) and the desire to quit Medicine or to change specialty (p<0.001).


The burnout level is high amongst oncology residents. It probably discourages vocations for oncology. Interventions are needed and could include support groups, more intense coaching by senior physicians, training programmes on 'breaking bad news' and teaching of stress management skills.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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