Burnout, psychiatric morbidity, and work-related sources of stress in paediatric oncology staff: a review of the literature

Psychooncology. 2009 Oct;18(10):1019-28. doi: 10.1002/pon.1534.


Objective: A growing body of research suggests that staff working in adult oncology services are at risk of burnout and psychiatric morbidity, but whether or not these findings can be generalised to staff working in paediatric oncology is questionable. This paper reports the findings of a comprehensive review of the literature on burnout, psychiatric morbidity, and sources of work-related stress in paediatric oncology staff.

Methods: Electronic searches of MEDLINE and PSYCHINFO. This was followed by a screening process, during which papers where checked against inclusion and exclusion criteria, and the quality of study reporting was assessed. Information about the study design and methods was then extracted from each paper so that the methodological quality could be critiqued.

Results: Ten studies meeting the review inclusion criteria were identified. No studies were identified which compared paediatric and adult oncology staff. Research on paediatric oncology staff has failed to use the well-established standardised measures of burnout and psychiatric morbidity employed in studies of adult oncology staff. There is some qualitative evidence to suggest paediatric oncology nurses experience a unique, additional set of stressors not encountered by colleagues in adult oncology services.

Conclusion: The evidence on stress and burnout in paediatric oncology staff is extremely limited. In order to devise appropriate and effective interventions to support staff, we need to have a much better understanding of the level of burnout and psychiatric morbidity experienced by all members of the paediatric oncology multi-disciplinary team, as well as the factors that contribute to these experiences.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology
  • Pediatrics*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Workforce