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Five Strategies Designed to Save Cancer Care Teams from Burnout

Tom Gallo, M.S., M.D.A.

President, Association of Community Cancer Centers

Caring for cancer patients can be draining — physically, intellectually and emotionally — for all members of the cancer care team. This includes everyone from the receptionist who greets patients to the physicians whom patients trust completely. Burnout continues to rise as oncology becomes increasingly complex with new treatment options, rising treatment costs, an aging population and an increasingly burdensome healthcare system.

Each day, we tell family members that they should take care of themselves to best care for their loved one with cancer. We need to repeat that same message with our cancer care team.

Here are five strategies to make wellness a priority:

1. Start at the top

Gain support from clinical and administrative leaders. Leaders must see well-being as a strategic initiative and fund it accordingly. Prioritize a healthy workforce by hiring a chief experience officer or chief wellness officer with a budget to support wellness initiatives. 

2. Leverage technology

Voice recognition technology can help reduce documentation burdens, allowing staff more time to focus on patients. Apps like MoodTracker can help track stress, anxiety, depression or general well-being.


3. Develop a system of coaches, education, and training

Conduct a time motion study to understand what each staff member does and then reduce redundancy. Develop a group process such as mindfulness time during daily rounds to help staff deal with the emotional impact of cancer care.

4. Establish a culture of caring and trust

Create a culture where team members feel safe to express concerns, show vulnerability and trust that leadership will follow up on issues raised.

5. Build effective, team-based interventions and pathways

When designing wellness interventions, include team members from all levels of the organization. Ask about inefficiencies and design with the team — rather than developing a top-down strategy and then imposing it on staff.

Cancer touches all our lives in some way. We in the oncology community must help our cancer care teams stay healthy and resilient so they can best treat patients.

Tom Gallo, M.S., M.D.A., President, Association of Community Cancer Centers, [email protected]

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