Oncologist burnout: Causes, consequences, and responses

Tait Shanafelt, Lotte Dyrbye

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


Although the practice of oncology can be extremely rewarding, it is also one of the most demanding and stressful areas of medicine. Oncologists are faced with life and death decisions on a daily basis, administer incredibly toxic therapies with narrow therapeutic windows, must keep up with the rapid pace of scientific and treatment advances, and continually walk a fine line between providing palliation and administering treatments that lead to excess toxicity. Personal distress precipitated by such work-related stress may manifest in a variety of ways including depression, anxiety, fatigue, and low mental quality of life. Burnout also seems to be one of the most common manifestations of distress among physicians, with studies suggesting a prevalence of 35% among medical oncologists, 38% among radiation oncologists, and 28% to 36% among surgical oncologists. Substantial evidence suggests that burnout can impact quality of care in a variety of ways and has potentially profound personal implications for physicians including suicidal ideation. In this review, we examine the causes, consequences, and personal ramifications of oncologist burnout and explore the steps oncologists can take to promote personal well-being and professional satisfaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1235-1241
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Apr 10 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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