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Oncology Team Well-Being

Mini-Z Survey Results

Results from Mini Z Burnout Survey

To gauge the level of burnout in the multidisciplinary cancer care team, ACCC recently surveyed its membership using the clinically validated Mini Z survey developed by the American Medical Association. While only a small number of respondents (14.9%) report dissatisfaction with their current job, burnout and stress levels are significant.
Download Survey Infographic

Cancer Buzz Podcast

Other ACCC Resources

ACCC Institute for the Future of Oncology

The sixth annual ACCC Institute held in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2018, convened more than 30 experts in cancer care, wellness, and resiliency to share insights on what is fueling burnout among members of the cancer care team and what needs to happen on both on both a micro and macro level to support and improve team well-being. The day-long forum discussion focused on ACCC President Tom Gallo’s 2018-2019 presidential theme: Reflect, Renew, Reignite: Creating a Resilient Oncology Team in Your Community.
Read the Executive Summary


Community-Based Psychological First Aid for Oncology Professionals
By Sam Gaster, Christina Early, Amanda Reed, and Brandon Gray

Training in community-based psychological first aid is a promising intervention that promotes adaptive functioning by instilling individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to support oneself and others when stressful events occur. The Avera Cancer Institute, Sioux Falls, S.D., has conducted Community-Based Psychological First Aid for Oncology Professionals for its workforce since August 2017.

Combatting Fatigue with Exercise: A Pilot Study

April 11, 2019

Although physical and emotional fatigue is the most common side effect of cancer treatment, it remains underreported, underdiagnosed, and undertreated. Yet the exhaustion patients experience can significantly interfere with their daily functioning, and fatigue can persist for months or even years after treatment ends.

Of the non-pharmacologic interventions for cancer-related fatigue, researchers have found exercise to have the strongest potential to produce a therapeutic benefit. Exercise improves a wide range of biopsychosocial outcomes in patients with cancer. Studies have demonstrated that patients who exercise are less tired, less depressed, and sleep better.

Of course, this can be counterintuitive for patients, who often reduce or stop exercising when undergoing fatigue-inducing treatments such as radiation. To counteract this impulse, oncology social workers at Mount Sinai Downtown Cancer Centers in New York City developed a quality improvement initiative to teach patients about the positive effects of exercise during treatment.

The cancer centers—which include three outpatient oncology practices within one hospital system—used the PDSA (plan, do, study, act) quality improvement tool to gauge behavioral change in patients during the study. This tool works by testing a change (plan), carrying out the test (do), observing and learning from the consequences (study), and then determining what modifications should be made to the test (act).

Exercise during treatment

At the start of the initiative, oncology social workers at Mount Sinai met with patients within their first 10 days of radiation treatment. The social workers gave the patients aerobics DVDs tailored for people with cancer, educational information about fatigue, and information on free exercise programs offered onsite and in the community. During this initial meeting, the social workers asked the patients if they exercised.

When the social workers met with the same patients a second time one week after they completed their radiation treatment, they asked several questions about the patients’ exercise routines while being treated. The social workers used the Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI) to measure patients’ self-reported fatigue. The BFI assesses the severity of fatigue and its impact on daily functioning in patients with cancer. Patients were asked to rate their level of fatigue from 0, which indicates no fatigue, to 10, which indicates the worst fatigue imaginable. A global fatigue score is obtained by averaging all items on the BFI.

Measuring fatigue

Social workers gathered complete data for 38 patients. Patients who reported exercising during treatment had an average initial BFI score of 2.0 and an average post-treatment score of 2.5. Patients who reported not exercising during treatment had an average initial BFI score of 3.1 and an average post-treatment BFI score of 2.9.

The results indicate that patients who exercised while receiving radiation treatment had lower average BFI scores than patients who did not exercise during treatment. This is consistent with the findings of other cancer-related fatigue studies, although it is not statistically significant.

The data also indicates that patients who exercised during treatment had an increase in fatigue post-treatment, whereas people who did not exercise had a decrease in fatigue post-treatment. One could infer that having a lower baseline BFI score might make patients more susceptible to experiencing fatigue during treatment and that exercise may prevent them from becoming as fatigued as they would have had they not exercised.

Looking ahead

At many cancer programs, exercise and wellness programs are offered free of charge, and patients should be made aware of the availability of these and other community resources. Oncology social workers, patient navigators, and advanced practice nurses often have access to information about these programs and should share it with patients. Oncologists should explain to patients the role of exercise in cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship and emphasize the health benefits associated with exercise during treatment.

A future direction for this initiative may include collaboration with additional providers, such as nurses, to increase the dissemination of information to patients and provide important clinical perspectives. Although this pilot project was limited by its small sample size, it has yielded enough encouraging information to recommend a larger study.

This post is adapted from “Providing Psycho-Education to Combat Fatigue,” an article by Shannon Morton, LMSW, MA; Alison Snow, PhD, LCSW, OSW-C; Anthony H. Bui, MS3; and Manjeet Chadha, MD. It first appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Oncology Issues.

From Oncology Issues

  •  Utilizing Scribes to Improve Patient-Centered Care and Efficiency and Reduce Burnout
    By Amy Hindman
    More oncology programs across the country are hiring scribes in their practices to improve patient-centered care, reduce physician burnout, and create administrative efficiencies.
  •  Caring for the Caregiver
    By ACCC Editorial Staff
    Dr. Farley directs Christiana Care Health System’s strategy to promote the professional fulfillment and personal well-being of its caregivers—and, subsequently, its patients.
  •  Burnout Prevention & Education
    By Monique Dawkins, EDD, MPA, et al.
    Being aware of how burnout manifests itself can help supervisors and staff identify the condition early.
  • Small in Stature, Large in Impact
    By ACCC Editorial Staff
    Caring for patients with cancer is inherently stressful, but many cancer team members say that their difficulties go beyond the expected emotional strain. Robin Hearne, RN, MS, director of Cancer Services and Chronic Disease Care at The Outer Banks Hospital, elaborates on the burdens of bureaucracy and shares the programs she’s developed to provide staff with necessary tools for patient and self-care.
  • Removing the Blame from Burnout
    ACCC Editorial Staff
    Burnout among U.S. healthcare clinicians is a national concern, and cancer care is no exception. To gauge the level of burnout in the cancer care team, ACCC surveyed its membership and created a hub for team well-being resources.
  • One Best Practice: Streamlining Workflow, Unifying Staff, and Reducing Redundancy
    Elizabeth Koelker, MHA, FACHE
    When Kettering Health Network reorganized its operations by service lines, oncology had major problems—internal competition, communication deficits, inefficiencies, and a lack of infrastructure. Learn how Kettering united its oncology staff under “one best practice,” streamlined operations, increased patient volume, and decreased internal competition.

Burnout is on the rise as oncology becomes increasingly complex with new treatment options, growing financial toxicity, an aging patient population, and an increasingly burdensome healthcare system. It has received much media attention, with some calling it an epidemic.

Thomas A. Gallo, MS, MDA, ACCC President, selected his 2018–2019 president’s theme: Reflect, Renew, Reignite: Creating a Resilient Oncology Team in Your Community, in order to shed light on the pain points that frustrate physicians, nurses, social workers, administrators, pharmacists, and all of the other professionals who collaborate to provide the highest level of patient care.

The ACCC 35th National Oncology Conference, October 17 – 19, in Phoenix, AZ, featured stories and strategies for fostering resilience and a healthcare culture that mitigates burnout among all members of the cancer care team. Three featured speakers inspired while providing practical strategies to help increase engagement, transform your work culture, and embrace experimentation. 

6 essential standards for a healthy work environment

ACCC is committed to identifying shared strategies and solutions to help combat the burnout and frustration that many of its members experience. This Building a Resilient Oncology Team: Issues and Solutions infographic details key findings on clinician burnout and a bevy of solutions to help you mitigate stress and bring the joy back to your workplace. 
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