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Mental health of cancer care staff

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Working as a member of cancer care staff brings with it a cetain degree of stress.

Rimariz et al in their study of almost 400 found that the estimated prevalence of psychiatric disorder in cancer clinicians was 28%, and this is similar to the rate among British junior house officers. Using the 12-item General Health Questionnaire and the Maslach Burnout Inventory they identified that amongst cancer clinicians, 'burnout'(emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and low personal accomplishment) were more prevalent among clinical oncologists than among medical oncologists and palliative care specialists.

Psychiatric disorder was independently associated with the stress of feeling overloaded (P < 0.0001), dealing with treatment toxicity/errors (P < 0.004) and feeling little satisfaction from professional status/esteem (P = 0.002).

'Burnout' was also related to these factors, and was also linked with high stress and low satisfaction when dealing with patients, and with low satisfaction due to having inadequate resources (P < or = 0.002).

Clinicians who felt insufficiently trained in communication and management skills had significantly higher levels of distress than those who felt sufficiently trained.


  • Ramirez, A. J., Graham, J., Richards, M. A., et al (1995) Burnout and psychiatric disorder among cancer clinicians. British Journal of Cancer, 71, 1263-1269.

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