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CMAJ. 2000 Jul 25;163(2):166-9.

Cancer care workers in Ontario: prevalence of burnout, job stress and job satisfaction.

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Division of Medical Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ont.



Cancer Care Ontario's Systemic Therapy Task Force recently reviewed the medical oncology system in the province. There has been growing concern about anecdotal reports of burnout, high levels of stress and staff leaving or decreasing their work hours. However, no research has systematically determined whether there is evidence to support or refute these reports. To this end, a confidential survey was undertaken.


A questionnaire was mailed to all 1016 personnel of the major providers of medical oncology services in Ontario. The questionnaire consisted of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the 12-item General Health Questionnaire, a questionnaire to determine job satisfaction and stress, and questions to obtain demographic characteristics and to measure the staff's consideration of alternative work situations.


The overall response rate was 70.9% (681 of 961 eligible subjects): by group it was 63.3% (131/207) for physicians, 80.9% (314/388) for allied health professionals and 64.5% (236/366) for support staff. The prevalence of emotional exhaustion were significantly higher among the physicians (53.3%) than among the allied health professionals (37.1%) and the support staff (30.5%) (p < or = 0.003); the same was true for feelings of depersonalization (22.1% v. 4.3% and 5.5% respectively) (p < or = 0.003). Feelings of low personal accomplishment were significantly higher among physicians (48.4%) and allied health professionals (54.0%) than among support staff (31.4%) (p < or = 0.002). About one-third of the respondents in each group reported that they have considered leaving for a job outside the cancer care system. Significantly more physicians (42.6%) than allied health professionals (7.6%) or support staff (4.5%) stated that they have considered leaving for a job outside the province.


The findings support the concern that medical oncology personnel are experiencing burnout and high levels of stress and that large numbers are considering leaving or decreasing their work hours. This is an important finding for the cancer care system, where highly trained and experienced health care workers are already in short supply.

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