Career burnout among pediatric oncologists

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2011 Dec 15;57(7):1168-73. doi: 10.1002/pbc.23121. Epub 2011 May 5.


Background: Burnout is a work-related syndrome consisting of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and diminished feelings of personal accomplishment. Physicians who care for patients with life-threatening illnesses are at high risk for developing burnout. This survey evaluates the prevalence of burnout among pediatric oncologists, and assesses risk factors associated with the development of burnout.

Procedure: A questionnaire was sent via email to 1,047 practicing pediatric oncologists. The survey included the 22 question Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), as well as questions regarding work-related and lifestyle-related factors associated with developing burnout.

Results: Four hundred ten pediatric oncologists (40%) responded to the survey. Thirty-eight percent of pediatric oncologists had high levels of burnout on the MBI, while 72% had at least moderate levels of burnout. Women (47% vs. 32%, P < 0.004) and physicians practicing for <10 years (50% vs. 33%, P < 0.004) had significantly higher rates of burnout. Physicians who reported satisfaction with their lives outside of work were less likely to have burnout (odds ratio 0.238, 0.143-0.396, P < 0.001). The availability of a forum for debriefing, and services for physicians affected by burnout were both associated with lower rates of burnout (24% vs. 46%, P < 0.001 and 23% vs. 46%, P < 0.001). Thirty-six percent of respondents reported their institution has a forum for debriefing and 40% of respondents reported their institution has services available for physicians experiencing symptoms of burnout.

Conclusions: Approximately three quarters of pediatric oncologists experience burnout. Further research is needed on the effectiveness of interventions aimed at preventing and treating work-related burnout.

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors