Addressing Palliative Care Clinician Burnout in Organizations: A Workforce Necessity, an Ethical Imperative

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2017 Jun;53(6):1091-1096. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2017.01.007. Epub 2017 Feb 11.


Clinician burnout reduces the capacity for providers and health systems to deliver timely, high quality, patient-centered care and increases the risk that clinicians will leave practice. This is especially problematic in hospice and palliative care: patients are often frail, elderly, vulnerable, and complex; access to care is often outstripped by need; and demand for clinical experts will increase as palliative care further integrates into usual care. Efforts to mitigate and prevent burnout currently focus on individual clinicians. However, analysis of the problem of burnout should be expanded to include both individual- and systems-level factors as well as solutions; comprehensive interventions must address both. As a society, we hold organizations responsible for acting ethically, especially when it relates to deployment and protection of valuable and constrained resources. We should similarly hold organizations responsible for being ethical stewards of the resource of highly trained and talented clinicians through comprehensive programs to address burnout.

Keywords: Burnout; ethics; hospice; moral distress; palliative care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional* / etiology
  • Hospice Care* / ethics
  • Hospice Care* / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Morals
  • Palliative Care* / ethics
  • Palliative Care* / organization & administration
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Systems Analysis