The high level of burnout among pediatric hematology/oncology fellows is associated with a decrease in empowerment, self-assessed humanism, and satisfaction in training, according to findings published in Pediatric Blood & Cancer.

Investigators conducted a cross-sectional study of hematology/oncology fellows to assess the prevalence of burnout, the demographics associated with burnout, and the relationship between burnout and humanism, empowerment in the workplace, training satisfaction, and patient centeredness.

From 21 United States fellowship programs, 115 fellows took pretests; 45 fellows (39.1%) met the criteria for high burnout based on their Maslach burnout inventory score, which was defined as a score ≥27 for emotional exhaustion, ≥10 for depersonalization, or ≤33 for personal accomplishment.

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While a large number of first-year fellows met the criteria for high level of burnout, fellowship year was not significantly associated with burnout. Demographic variables, such as age, gender, and program size were also not significantly associated with burnout.

Among fellows included in the analysis, there was a significant association between burnout and inferior outcomes in empowerment (P =.0002), patient centeredness (P =.002), self-assessment in humanism (P <.0001), and satisfaction with training (P <.0001).

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The investigators noted some limitations to the study, which was a secondary analysis of data that did not include other outcome measures from the primary study. They postulated that the burnout response rates may be seasonally affected, and that the August and September distributions may not accurately reflect burnout rates across seasons. Other limitations included a selection bias and lack of a longitudinal investigation, which the authors believed would determine burnout rates better than a cross-sectional assessment.

“We still have more to learn about the conditions surrounding and leading to burnout in order to improve interventions and best help our colleagues,” the authors wrote. “Based on these data, we plan to continue evaluating burnout in [pediatric hematology/oncology] trainees and aim to gain a deeper understanding of the external conditions that may be affecting our trainees, with the ultimate goal of improving trainee well-being as well as patient care.”


Moerdler S, Li Y, Weng S, Kesselheim J. Burnout in pediatric hematology oncology fellows: results of a cross-sectional survey [published online April 11, 2020]. Pediatr Blood Cancer. doi: 10.1002/pbc.28274