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Oncologists face huge backlogs, mounting burnout as pandemic rolls on

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | September 18, 2020
Rad Oncology

The meeting also included a presentation of the largest-ever COVID-19 survey of the oncology workforce. Consisting of two online surveys undertaken in May by the ESMO Resilience Task Force, the study involved 1,520 participants from 101 countries who discussed declines in their levels of well-being and job performance as national COVID-19 mortality rates rose. It showed that 38% of oncologists felt burned out and 25% were at risk of distress. Two-thirds (66%) reported being unable to perform their duties as well as they could before the pandemic.

A follow-up survey in July-August 2020, however, showed that job performance improved, compared to the first study, signaling greater control of the situation. Well-being and burnout rates dropped further down, however.

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"The main predictors of wellbeing, burnout and COVID-19 job performance in the ESMO Analysis were resilience and change to work hours," Giuseppe Curigliano, ESMO guidelines committee chair at the University of Milano and European Institute of Oncology, told HCB News. "Risk of distress and burnout increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst job performance has improved. We need more psychological support work reorganization to address wellbeing and improve resilience."

He adds that "Lessons learned from this pandemic should be employed to become an integral part of the new normal of healthcare. Integrating cancer care as a part of the institutional emergency preparedness plan will improve patients outcome in similar crises. Cancer care continuum should have a major component of effectively managing cancer patients during pandemics or major crises."

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