Hematology/Oncology Pharmacists Report Experiencing High Levels of Burnout

Common factors that contributed to reported increased dissatisfaction at work include role conflict, quantity of work, workflow disruptions, organizational culture, and leadership support.

A new national survey has shown that occupational burnout is highly prevalent among hematology/oncology pharmacists. Results of the survey were presented by lead poster author Allison P. Golbach, PGY2 oncology resident at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, during the virtual Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) Annual Conference 2021.1,2

According to survey results, 61.8% of 550 HOPA members reported symptoms of burnout as defined by a high score on the emotional exhaustion (EE) or depersonalization (DP) scale of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). High levels of burnout for these categories were defined by scores of 27 or greater for EE, and 10 or greater for DP.1 According to Golbach, the study results were consistent with previous studies on burnout in pharmacists.2

“This is important as we know that burnout is associated with various mental and physical consequences including depression, anxiety, coronary heart disease, hypercholesterolemia, headaches, and various gastrointestinal issues,” Golbach said.2

Common factors that contributed to reported increased dissatisfaction at work include role conflict, quantity of work, workflow disruptions, organizational culture, and leadership support.1

Other factors associated with high levels of burnout—based on survey responses—include increasing age, working more hours per week, more administrative hours worked per week, unawareness of wellness programs, concern for major medical error within the past 3 months, and decreased wellness from the COVID-19 pandemic. Factors considered that were not associated with burnout include gender, relationship status, parenthood, and the time spent in meaningful areas of work.1

“Not only does burnout affect the individuals themselves, but also the patients they care for, as multiple studies have discovered the burnout is associated with increased risk of making a major medical error. And even small errors in oncology can be catastrophic to our patients,” said Goldbach.

Investigators for this study found that hematology/oncology pharmacists with high levels of burnout are 4 times more likely to think they have made a major medication error in the past 3 months, an issue reported by 20.2% of all survey respondents. According to the investigators, this issue could have adverse consequences for patients receiving antineoplastics.1

Additionally, 26.8% of hematology/oncology pharmacists who reported higher levels of burnout are more likely to leave their current positions within the next 2 years for reasons other than retirement.1 According to the authors, loss of clinical expertise and the cost of recruitment and onboarding new employees have significant financial implications for health organizations.1,2

“The cost of turnover is tremendous,” Goldbach said.2

According to Goldbach, burnout among hematology/oncology pharmacists also could affect an individual’s productivity, such as decreasing quality and quantity of work, which can be detrimental to co-workers.2

Goldbach said there was interest in evaluating burnout among hematology/oncology pharmacists because of the wide array of practice settings that include infusion centers, hospital practice, ambulatory clinics, and specialty pharmacy; as well as the management of complex cancer cases with toxic chemotherapies, and emotional turmoil that may come with caring for patients with terminal cancer.2

According to the investigators, their study is a call to action for hematology/oncology pharmacists and organization leaders to develop meaningful interventions that would prevent and mitigate burnout in these professionals.1 Goldbach said their study may be used as a building block for the creation of these interventions across pharmacy settings.2

REFERENCES

  1. Golbach AP, McCullough KB, Soefje SA, Mara KC, Shanafelt TD, Merten JA. Evaluation of burnout in a national sample of hematology/oncology pharmacists. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 2020
  2. Golbach AP. Evaluation of burnout in a national sample of hematology/oncology pharmacists. Presented at: Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association Annual Conference 2021; virtual. April 13, 2021.