Background: Studies show that 30-50% of medical oncologists experience burnout, but little is known about burnout among surgical oncologists. We hypothesized that wide variation in burnout and career satisfaction exist among surgical oncologists.
Patients and methods: In April 2006, members of the Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO) were sent an anonymous, cross-sectional survey evaluating demographic variables, practice characteristics, career satisfaction, burnout, and quality of life (QOL). Burnout and QOL were measured using validated instruments.
Results: Of the 1519 surgical oncologists surveyed, 549 (36%) responded. More than 50% of respondents worked more than 60 hours per week while 24% performed more than 10 surgical cases per week. Among the respondents, 72% were academic surgical oncologists and 26% spent at least 25% of their time to research. Seventy-nine percent stated that they would become a surgical oncologist again given the choice. Overall, 28% of respondents had burnout. Burnout was more common among respondents age 50 years or younger (31% vs 22%; P = .029) and women (37% vs 26%; P = .031). Factors associated with a higher risk of burnout on multivariate analysis were devoting less than 25% of time to research, had lower physical QOL, and were age 50 years or younger. Burnout was associated with lower satisfaction with career choice.
Conclusions: Although surgical oncologists indicated a high level of career satisfaction, nearly a third experienced burnout. Factors associated with burnout in this study may inform efforts by program directors and SSO members to promote personal health and retain the best surgeons in the field of surgical oncology. Additional research is needed to inform evidenced-based interventions at both the individual and organizational level to reduce burnout.