Affecting Change in Burnout Among Radiation Oncology Providers and Staff Requires Leadership at Every Level

Presenting author:
Desmond Garner, candidate for MD, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center

By: Julia White, MD, FASTRO

Increased attention to physician burnout in medicine has revealed its negative impact on personal well-being as well as its effect on the quality of health care given its association with higher rates of medical errors and worse patient outcomes. Garner et al. sought to evaluate the prevalence and severity of burnout across physicians, other providers and staff in a large academic radiation oncology department. Using the validated AMA MiniZ Burnout Survey, all radiation oncology faculty, resident physicians, physicists, advance practice providers (APP) and non-provider staff were surveyed with the intention of developing measures to help mitigate prevalence as part of a long-term burnout reduction program.

Overall, 56% of surveyed providers reported symptoms of burnout at baseline. Burnout was most prevalent among resident physicians (79%) and radiation oncology faculty (55%). One year later, the same provider group was surveyed again.  In addition, the MiniZ Burnout survey was sent to all non-provider staff (administrative, dosimetrists, therapists and nurses). On the second survey, symptoms in the provider group overall had decreased to 42% (p=0.108), driven by less burnout in radiation oncology faculty and resident physicians, however, APP and physicist rates rose modestly. Burnout at baseline among administrative staff, dosimetrists, therapists and nurses was 41%, 47%, 45% and 41%, respectively. Factors associated with symptoms of burnout (p < .05) across all professional groups included: poor control over workload; job stress; inadequate time to document; time spent on electronic medical records at home; hectic work atmosphere; efficiency of care teams; and degree of alignment between professional values and department leadership values.

The study illustrates the significant prevalence of burnout across providers and non-provider staff alike within the radiation oncology department. Burnout numerically reduced in physician providers with interventions that were put in place but did not reach significance.  The authors conclude that every level of leadership within the department is needed to implement changes to reduce symptoms of burnout.


Burnout Among Radiation Oncology Providers and Staff in a Large Academic Center was presented on Saturday, October 24, as part of Quick Pitch Session 03 – Education and Professional Development.

Published on: October 25, 2020

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