Efforts to address burnout among oncologists may benefit from team-based strategies, according to the preliminary results from a new study published in JCO Oncology Practice.1

“Burnout can leave oncologists feeling isolated in their suffering, but this does not have to be the case,” the study’s researchers explained in their report.

The researchers invited leaders of oncology units to be involved in a team-oriented program to address physician burnout. Included in this intervention were monthly sessions and quarterly meetings at which the leaders could learn strategies for enhancing communication and psychological safety among the staff of their oncology units. Some strategies leaders were expected to apply within their units included providing staff with learning materials and coaching sessions.

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Program adoption and efficacy in this ongoing study are being evaluated through annual surveys of staff. Employee burnout and employee perceptions of teamwork are the primary outcomes assessed.

A total of 30 oncology units and 409 staff were evaluated in this study after 2 years of surveys. The researchers performed a multilevel mediation analysis to examine the effect on employee burnout with teamwork perception as a mediator. The researchers found an indirect effect from the team-oriented intervention, which altered perceptions of teamwork, resulting in an impact on employee burnout (P <.05).

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In units where staff reported greater adoption of the team-oriented program, there was reduced burnout, with greater perceptions of teamwork, reported after a year.

“Through taking a team-focused approach to intervening, especially one informed by organizational science, a more comprehensive approach can be implemented so that no provider is left to combat burnout alone,” concluded the researchers in their report. The researchers also noted that teamwork can have additional benefits regarding coordination of patient care.


LeNoble CA, Pegram R, Shuffler ML, Fuqua T, Wiper DW III. To address burnout in oncology, we must look to teams: reflections on an organizational science approach. JCO Oncol Pract. Published online February 19, 2020. doi: 10.1200/JOP.19.00631