Research into decreasing stress and preventing burnout among oncology clinicians is in the early stages; however, preliminary investigations and anecdotal reports suggest potential strategies.
Communication skills are a common concern, particularly related to breaking ‘bad news,’ transitions in treatment, end-of-life care, and error disclosure. Controlled trials have documented improvement in communication skills following training courses. Changes are associated with positive shifts in attitude toward patients’ psychosocial needs and patient-centered care.
Recognition and appreciation are recommended for staff retention. For instance, researchers have advocated retreats for oncology nurses at which participants share their experiences, acknowledge vulnerability and emotional responses, and provide mutual support.
Support groups and bereavement workshops can be helpful, but their effectiveness may depend on their structure and leaders.
Humor has been proposed as a strategy to assuage stress, miscommunication, and depression.
Stress-management workshops have demonstrated promise in pilot studies.
Other suggestions include providing mentoring for junior staff members, continuing education on self-care and well-being, and individual counseling for those at highest risk for burnout.
Source: “Caregiver Stress and Burnout in an Oncology Unit,” Palliative and Supportive Care, 2006.