A study based in Ireland examined patterns of professional quality of life, empathy, and emotional intelligence among oncology professionals. The study findings were presented in a European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS) session at the 2022 European Society of Medicine Oncology (ESMO) Congress by Patricia Hunt, PGDip, of the South East Technological University in Waterford, Ireland, and colleagues.

Professional quality of life, empathy, and emotional intelligence are often linked, explained Dr Hunt. There seems to be geographical differences in some of these factors, as well as differences across disciplines. She also noted nurses working in oncology may avoid considering their emotions throughout the day.

The research presented by Dr Hunt was part of a larger study. Survey data from 122 professionals were evaluated in this analysis, which included oncology nurses, radiation therapists, and oncologists. Measurement tools for quantitative analysis included the Professional Quality of Life tool, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index for evaluating cognitive and emotional empathy, and the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire.

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In this study, regarding professional quality of life, Dr Hunt reported that results for compassion satisfaction and burnout among these professionals in Ireland appeared comparable with those of other geographical areas. However, 28% of oncology healthcare professionals in this study reported high levels of secondary traumatic stress, which she indicated was a higher rate than in other geographical areas.

Regarding correlations between professional quality of life, empathy, and emotional intelligence, several items appeared significantly associated with each other. Scores regarding the perspective-taking aspect of empathy showed a positive correlation with scores for compassion satisfaction. Empathic concern scores were positively correlated with scores for secondary traumatic stress, while higher scores regarding personal distress were negatively correlated with compassion satisfaction.

Higher scores for general trait emotional intelligence showed a positive correlation with higher levels of compassion satisfaction. Lower levels of trait emotional intelligence were reportedly correlated with higher levels of compassion fatigue, and higher levels of self-control were correlated with lower levels of burnout.

Additionally, higher scores for well-being were positively correlated with compassion satisfaction, while lower scores for well-being were correlated with compassion fatigue. Higher age and more years of experience in cancer care were negatively correlated with secondary traumatic stress.

Some significant differences were apparent between professions. Nurses overall showed lower levels of burnout than radiation therapists and oncologists did, and nurses overall showed higher levels of self-control than did members of these other professions.

“Considering the difference in the professions, the levels of burnout, I think we need to support each other in practice,” Dr Hunt said. “Check in with people about how their day is going.” She recommended focusing more on distressed patients’ emotional responses rather than trying to put oneself “in their shoes.” She also suggested thinking locally, and even internationally, about ways professionals can support each other.


Hunt P, Gooney M, Hennessy A, Keenleyside M, Denieffe S. Comparison of professional quality of life, empathy and emotional intelligence in cancer health care professionals: a study of cancer nurses, radiation therapists and oncologists. Ann Oncol. 2022;33(suppl_7):S820-S826. doi:10.1016/annonc/annonc/1045