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Oncologist. 2000;5(5):425-34.

Burnout: caring for the caregivers.

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The Kenneth B. Schwartz Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, Hematology-Oncology Department, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Shortly before his death in 1995, Kenneth B. Schwartz, a cancer patient at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), founded The Kenneth B. Schwartz Center at MGH. The Schwartz Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and advancing compassionate health care delivery, which provides hope to the patient, support to caregivers, and encourages the healing process. The center sponsors the Schwartz Center Rounds, a monthly multidisciplinary forum where caregivers reflect on important psychosocial issues faced by patients, their families, and their caregivers, and gain insight and support from fellow staff members. Burnout describes the end result of stress in the professional life of a physician or caregiver and combines emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and low personal accomplishment. This problem is common in health care workers in every specialty and may affect not only personal satisfaction, but also the quality of care delivered to patients. Burnout is particularly relevant in oncology where caregivers work closely with patients who have life-threatening illnesses and therapy often has only a limited impact. Burnout was discussed in the rounds with an emphasis on factors which precipitate or prevent stress among health care workers. Presentations were made by Dr. Canellos of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Dr. Picard of the Institute for Health Professions. Staff discussed the main issues contributing to burnout including the health care system, lack of time and inadequate training. They considered preventative measures including psychological support of the health care team, communication and management skills, and effective coping mechanisms.

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