Stress and Burnout Among Residency Program Directors in United States Radiation Oncology Programs

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2015 Nov 15;93(4):746-53. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2015.08.019. Epub 2015 Aug 14.


Purpose: To evaluate stressors among radiation oncology residency program directors (PDs) and determine the prevalence and indicators of burnout.

Methods and materials: An anonymous, online, cross-sectional survey was offered to PDs of US radiation oncology programs in the fall of 2014. Survey content examined individual and program demographics, perceptions surrounding the role of PD, and commonly encountered stressors. Burnout was assessed using the validated Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey.

Results: In total, 47 of 88 PDs (53%) responded to the survey. Although 78% of respondents reported feeling "satisfied" or "highly satisfied" with their current role, 85% planned to remain as PD for <5 years. The most commonly cited stressors were satisfying Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education/Residency Review Committee requirements (47%), administrative duties (30%) and resident morale (28%). Three-quarters of respondents were satisfied that they became PDs. Overall, 11% of respondents met criteria for low burnout, 83% for moderate burnout, and 6% for high burnout. Not having served as a PD at a prior institution correlated with high depersonalization (OR 6.75, P=.04) and overall burnout (odds ratio [OR], 15.6; P=.04). Having more years on faculty prior to becoming PD correlated with less emotional exhaustion (OR, 0.44, P=.05) and depersonalization (OR, 0.20, P=.04). Finally, having dedicated time for PD duties correlated with less emotional exhaustion (OR, 0.27, P=.04).

Conclusions: Moderate levels of burnout are common in U.S. radiation oncology PDs with regulatory stressors being common. Despite this, many PDs are fulfilled with their role. Longitudinal studies assessing dynamic external factors and their influence on PD burnout would be beneficial.

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel / psychology*
  • Administrative Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Burnout, Professional / etiology
  • Career Choice
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency* / statistics & numerical data
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Personnel Turnover / statistics & numerical data
  • Radiation Oncology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology