COVID-19 Pandemic Increasing Oncologist Burnout


A survey found that the majority of oncologists did not feel like they could perform their duties as well as they could prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly damaged oncologists’ wellbeing, according to several new studies discussed at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Virtual Congress 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 1.9 million deaths and there has been over 89 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In order to slow the spread of the virus, social distancing measures were put in place. However, such measures have caused delays and cancelations in cancer care, generating a massive backlog of care and research.

One study found that 60.9% of surveyed oncology centers indicated that clinical activity was reduced at the peak of the pandemic. Additionally, 64.2% reported under-treatment was a major concern and 37% a significant reduction in clinical trials.

According to the study, the data showed that in 44.1% of the 18 centers surveyed, surgery was cancelled or delayed. Chemotherapy was canceled or delayed in 25.7% of centers and radiotherapy was canceled or delayed in 13.7% of centers. Additionally, an earlier end to palliative care was reported in 32.1% of centers.

Investigators also revealed the results of 2 online surveys administered by ESMO in May 2020. The first survey, which polled 1520 participants from 101 countries, found that 38% of oncology professionals experienced feelings of burnout and 25% reported they were at risk of distress. The majority of respondents, 66%, also reported they were unable to perform their duties as well as they could before the pandemic, according to the study.

“The ESMO Resilience Task Force surveys indicate that COVID-19 is having an impact on wellbeing, burnout and job performance," said survey lead author Susana Banerjee, PhD, ESMO director of membership, in a press release. "As an oncology community, we must work collaboratively, individuals and organizations, to ensure that resources are used in the best way possible to support oncology professionals and make sure that distress and burnout do not increase. The ESMO Resilience Task Force will look into developing more specific interventions so that we can further help and support oncology professionals during and beyond the pandemic."


COVID-19 pandemic halts cancer care and damages oncologists' wellbeing [News Release] September 14, 2020; Lugano, Switzerland. Accessed January 12, 2021.

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