Goals of work: Increasing economical and administrative constraints and changes in health-care systems constitute a risk for burnout, especially for cancer physicians. However, little is known about differences across medical specialties and the importance of work characteristics.
Methods: A postal questionnaire addressing burnout, psychiatric morbidity, sociodemographics and work characteristics was administered to 180 cancer physicians, 184 paediatricians and 197 general practitioners in Switzerland.
Results: A total of 371 (66%) physicians participated in the survey. Overall, one third of the respondents expressed signs indicative of psychiatric morbidity and of burnout, including high levels of emotional exhaustion (33%) and depersonalisation/cynicism (28%) and a reduced feeling of personal accomplishment (20%). Workload (>50 h/week), lack of continuing education (<6 h/month) and working in a public institution were significantly associated with an increased risk of burnout. After adjustment for these characteristics, general practitioners had a higher risk for emotional exhaustion (OR: 2.0, 95% CI: 1.1 to 3.6) and depersonalisation (OR: 2.7, 95% CI: 1.4 to 5.3).
Conclusion: In this Swiss sample, cancer clinicians had a significant lower risk of burnout, despite a more important workload. Among possible explanations, involvement in research and teaching activities and access to continuing education may have protected them.