MADRID, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- According to a new study, more than 70 percent of young oncologists in Europe are already showing signs of burnout. The survey was carried out by researchers with the European Society for Medical Oncology and included responses from 595 oncologists under the age of 40 from all over Europe.
"Oncology is an exceptionally rewarding career, but it can be demanding and stressful at times," Dr. Susana Banerjee, lead study author, said in a press release. "Oncologists make complex decisions about cancer management, supervise the use of toxic therapies, work long hours, and continually face patients suffering and dying."
The evidence showed oncologists, or cancer specialists, in central Europe showed the most signs of burnout, with 84 percent report career-related fatigue. Oncologists in Northern Europe are slightly more well-adjusted, with just over half reporting symptoms of burnout.
Using survey responses, researchers honed in on a number of factors that may be contributing to feelings of burnout among oncologists, including: poor work-life balance; inadequate vacation and personal time; domestic and relationship issues; and workplace negatives like a small workforce, overwhelming numbers of patients and lack of support services.
The survey results don't bode well for a medical field that will be increasingly relied on as cancer rates continue to rise.
"I believe as a profession, doctors have a duty to try and address this growing issue at all levels -- from universities, individual hospitals and professional societies such as ESMO," Banerjee said. "Burnout should not be stigmatized as a weakness. We need to support colleagues by focusing on recovery and prevention."
Banerjee and her colleagues suggest hospitals do more to promote a healthier work-life balance, and to set up strong support systems for doctors dealing with feelings of burnout.
Achieving a good work/life balance is vital, she said. "This can include interests outside daily clinical practice such as research, teaching and mentoring students as well as interests outside of work such as hobbies, exercise and spending time with family and friends."
Achieving job satisfaction in these ways is likely to improve patient care as well as communication and relationships with colleagues.
The results of the survey were presented this week at the ESMO Congress in Madrid.