Burnout Found in Most Palliative Care Clinicians

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Greatest risk of burnout in palliative care for younger doctors and those working more than 50 hours per week.
Greatest risk of burnout in palliative care for younger doctors and those working more than 50 hours per week.

More than 60 percent of palliative care clinicians report burnout, according to a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's inaugural Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium, held in Boston.

Arif Kamal, M.D., from the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and colleagues examined the prevalence and predictors of burnout among palliative care providers.

Data were collected from surveys from 1,241 clinicians who were members of the American Academy of Hospital and Palliative Medicine who had completed the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Burnout severity was assessed across two domains: emotional exhaustion (EE) and depersonalization (DP).

The researchers found that 68 percent of the respondents were physicians, 57 percent were older than 50 years, and 65 percent were females. Forty-two percent reported regularly receiving overnight calls and 30 percent reported working at least 50 hours per week. Of the respondents, 24, 59, and 62 percent, respectively, reported high DP, high EE, and high burnout symptoms on either EE or DP scales.

RELATED: Oncology Fellows Underestimate Workload, Report High Burnout

The greatest risk of burnout was reported for younger colleagues, those working more than 50 hours per week, and those with fewer colleagues within their practice (P < 0.02).

"Further studies on how burnout affects sustainability of the palliative care workforce are needed, especially since this workforce is so critical to the provision of high-quality cancer care," the authors write.


  1. "Prevalence and predictors of burnout among specialty palliative care clinicians in the United States: Results of a national survey." 2014 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium. October 25, 2014.

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