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Oncology Team Resiliency

How To Build a Resilient Oncology Team

To help members of the cancer care team better manage stress and improve their overall well-being, ACCC 2021-22 President Krista Nelson—and several special guests—hosted a virtual Mindfulness Meditation series. Through meditation, we cultivate an awareness of the present moment and train the mind to better understand how and why we think and feel the way we do.
View Meditations

Results from Mini Z Burnout Survey


To gauge the level of burnout in the multidisciplinary cancer care team, ACCC surveyed its membership in 2019 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

  • [MINI-PODCAST] Ep 74: The Business Case for Hiring Oncology Social Workers
    Jan 18, 2022

    Hear from ACCC 2021-2022 President, Krista Nelson, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, FAOSW, as she talks about two new resources (a business case brief for hiring and a benchmarking survey) coming from ACCC that demonstrate the value oncology social workers play in cancer care.

  • [MINI-PODCAST] Ep 71: Leading with Gratitude
    Nov 23, 2021

    In this special podcast episode, we talk with oncology social worker and ACCC President Krista Nelson, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, FAOSW, about finding opportunities to practice gratitude each day for colleagues and patients.   

  • [MINI-PODCAST] Ep 68: Supportive Care in Radiation Oncology
    Sep 21, 2021
    Early in the pandemic, members of the Stanford Health Care Radiation Oncology Department created an internal podcast for their department to creatively address the need for connections among onsite and remote staff, acknowledge the emotional and psychological toll of caring for patients during this challenging time, and support the well-being and mental health for oncology staff.
  • [MINI-PODCAST] Ep 67: Coping with Pandemic Grief
    Sep 14, 2021
    In this special podcast episode, we talk with oncology social worker and ACCC President Krista Nelson, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, FAOSW, about the overwhelming grief of the pandemic and its toll on cancer care professionals.  
  • [MINI-PODCAST] Ep 64: A Summer of Disconnect for Cancer Professionals
    Jul 20, 2021
    In this episode, we focus on the mental and emotional toll that COVID-19 continues to have on cancer care professionals—while much of the public experiences a “summer of joy” due to rising vaccinations.
  • [MINI-PODCAST] Ep 14: COVID-19 Self-Care
    Mar 31, 2020

    Krista Nelson, ACCC President 2021-22, shares self-care resources for cancer team members during the COVID-19 outbreak and guides us through a brief mindfulness exercise.

  • [PODCAST] Ep 02: Fostering Cancer Care Team Resiliency & Well-Being
    Jul 31, 2019
    Learn how organizations like Vidant Health and The Outer Banks Hospital are creating a healthier, more rewarding workplace by making employee wellness a strategic priority.

From the ACCCBuzz Blog

Burnout Defined

June 06, 2019

This post continues ACCC’s ongoing conversation on how mitigate burnout and foster well-being and resilience among all staff involved in the delivery of cancer care.

Besides the common understanding of burnout as a workplace phenomenon, the criteria for being “burned out” can vary widely. What one person calls burnout another may view as run-of-the-mill workplace stress.

While there have been many attempts to define burnout over the years, a mutually agreed upon definition remains elusive. Merriam-Webster defines burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” The Mayo Clinic has called it “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” Some academic and mainstream reports and surveys on the topic assume a common understanding of the word rather than defining it explicitly.

At the end of May, the World Health Organization (WHO) took its turn by announcing it had revised its previous definition of burnout as a "state of vital exhaustion" to a more explicit, nuanced definition. This new definition will appear in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which will go into effect 2022. WHO refers to burnout as a “syndrome” caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” WHO assigns three characteristics to burnout:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job
  • reduced professional efficacy

WHO’s revised definition explicitly states that burnout is a workplace phenomenon and “should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.” Because this definition articulates and enumerates burnout’s symptoms, it may give this workplace phenomenon more legitimacy, perhaps opening doors for people to get the professional help they need. 

This may be of particular importance to clinicians and allied healthcare professionals, who repeatedly report experiencing more burnout than others. When ACCC surveyed its membership earlier this year, approximately 33 percent of respondents said they are “definitely burning out,” while nearly 16 percent said their symptoms of burnout “won’t go away.”

Other surveys have also uncovered high burnout rates in the healthcare community. In a recently released survey of 5,000 physicians by the American Medical Association, nearly 44 percent said they had at least one symptom of burnout in 2017. In comparison, 28 percent of all U.S. workers report burnout symptoms.

Concern over growing rates of burnout among U.S. clinicians has captured national attention in recent years, and in 2017 resulted in the launch of the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience. This network of more than 60 organizations, including ACCC, is committed to reversing trends in clinician burnout. 

As a multidisciplinary organization, ACCC recognizes that caring for patients can take a physical and emotional toll on all members of the multidisciplinary oncology care team, from the front desk staff who greets patients to the physician who treats them. In a 2013 survey cited in the Annals of Family Medicine, of 508 employees working for 243 healthcare employers, 60 percent reported burnout, and 34 percent said they planned to look for a different job.

Time will tell whether the new ICD-11 definition of burnout will affect its perception and diagnosis among healthcare professionals. But having an explicit, detailed definition can definitely enhance the ongoing conversation about how we can better care for our caregivers.

From Oncology Issues

  •  An Advanced Practice Radiation Therapist Role Helps This Cancer Program Reach New Heights
    By Samantha Skubish and Kimberly Smith
    Learn how the creation of the first advanced practice radiation therapist role in the United States helped Mount Sinai establish a new model of inpatient care by elevating the radiation therapy skill set.
  •  Examining Health Care Workforce Needs in Hawaii
    Stephanie Helbling
    ACCC partnered with the Hawaii Society of Clinical Oncology to conduct a landscape analysis of current regional activities, barriers, and interventions around the health care workforce shortage in Hawaii.
  •  Issues: Chemotherapy Drug Shortages Result in Access Challenges and Difficult Choices
    By Nicole Tapay, JD
    The shortage of chemotherapy drugs is placing a considerable burden on cancer care providers. To end this, ACCC is working its members, as well as other provider and patient advocacy organizations, to identify potential policy solutions.
  • Investing in Our Oncology Workforce
    By Olalekan Ajayi, PharmD, MBA
    To overcome the challenges facing the oncology workforce, cancer programs and centers must reimagine their care model with a focus on investing in a workforce that is equipped and ready to provide quality patient care.
  •  Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics Solution Transforms Infusion Center Operations
    By Maddelynne Parker and Chidi Ike
    The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Monument Health Cancer Care Institute leveraged a technology solution to improve infusion center efficiency, increase revenue, and reduce patient wait times.
  •  Delivery of Psychosocial Cancer Centers Care in Oncology Summit
    Backed by strategic partnerships, ACCC held a multistakeholder meeting focused on exploring the current state of psychosocial support in oncology.
  •  Community-Based Psychological First Aid for Oncology Professionals
    Sam Gaster, MA; Christina Early, MSW; Amanda Reed, PhD; and Brandon Gray, MA
    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.
  •  A Psychological First Aid Program in the COVID-19 Era
    Amanda Patton, MA
    Although community-based psychological first aid training is most often provided to prepare for front-line emergencies, Avera Cancer Institute recognized the potential for this training to help foster a culture of resilience and mutual support.
  •  Improving the Culture of Your Cancer Center, One Idea at a Time
    Kevin Dryanski, MBA, et al.
    This cancer program needed to build an organizational and operational structure that would support change and encourage adoption and growth. The answer: the Daily Improvement Program.
  •  Views: Mentoring Those New to Oncology
    Kerri Michalik, MHA, BSN
    In my breakout session at the 37th ACCC [Virtual] National Oncology Conference, held Sept. 14-18, 2020, I shared that mentorship is often the missing link to facing these staffing challenges.
  •  Technology and the Ideal Future State of Oncology
    David R. Penberthy, MD, MBA
    Dr. Penberthy's final Tech Talk as ACCC President was attended by more than 40 members, as speakers discussed the impact of big data and artificial intelligence.
  •  Best Processes for Development of a Successful Cardio-Oncology Program in a Community Hospital
    Ranju Gupta, Deborah W. Sundlöf, Chun Ting Siu, Kelly C. Schadler, Hannah Cooper, Simi Rai, Kailyn Mann, Janine Barnaby, Cheri A. Silverstein Fadlon, Paul S. Corotto, Nadeem V. Ahmad, and Ronald Freudenberger
    Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., successfully developed a cardio-oncology program designed to implement best practices and guideline-based care, which resulted in an average growth in patient volume of 50 percent per year.
  •  Summit Explores Role of Oncology Advanced Practitioners in Equitable Cancer Care Delivery
    Learn the 10 feasible and impactful “how-tos” Summit participants identified within three domains—care coordination and communication, clinical trials, and acknowledging and mitigating implicit bias.
  •  President: Recapping the 2018 ACCC Institute for the Future of Oncology
    Tom Gallo
    On June 27, 2018, ACCC convened the sixth Institute for the Future of Oncology forum in Washington, D.C., to bring together interdisciplinary experts and key stakeholders to discuss my Presidential theme: “Reflect, Renew, Reignite: Creating a Resilient Oncology Team in Your Community.”
  •  Views: Making the Most out of Drug Representatives
    Connie Renfroe
    Medical science representatives possess critical information about new drug regimens, protocols, and indications. However, scheduling them often requires a part-time position that few practices can afford—it’s a catch-22.
  •  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.
  •  Turning Off Turnover
    Tom Gallo, MS, MDA
    Though stemming burnout at the source is vital work, it is also important to recognize and alleviate symptoms as they appear. One such symptom is decreased workforce retention.
  • 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.
  •  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.
  •  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.

Building a Resilient Oncology Team: Issues and Solutions

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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