INTRODUCTION The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis profoundly affecting oncology care delivery. PURPOSE This study will describe the occupational and personal consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on oncologist well-being and patient care. MATERIALS AND METHODS Four virtual focus groups were conducted with US ASCO member oncologists (September-November 2020). Inquiry and subsequent discussions centered on self-reported accounts of professional and personal COVID-19 experiences affecting well-being, and oncologist recommendations for well-being interventions that the cancer organization and professional societies (ASCO) might implement were explored. Qualitative interviews were analyzed using Framework Analysis. RESULTS Twenty-five oncologists were interviewed: median age 44 years (range: 35-69 years), 52% female, 52% racial or ethnic minority, 76% medical oncologists, 64% married, and an average of 51.5 patients seen per week (range: 20-120). Five thematic consequences emerged: (1) impact of pre-COVID-19 burnout, (2) occupational or professional limitations and adaptations, (3) personal implications, (4) concern for the future of cancer care and the workforce, and (5) recommendations for physician well-being interventions. Underlying oncologist burnout exacerbated stressors associated with disruptions in care, education, research, financial practice health, and telemedicine. Many feared delays in cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment. Oncologists noted personal and familial stressors related to COVID-19 exposure fears and loss of social support. Many participants strongly considered working part-time or taking early retirement. Yet, opportunities arose to facilitate personal growth and rise above pandemic adversity, fostering greater resilience. Recommendations for organizational well-being interventions included psychologic or peer support resources, flexible time-off, and ASCO and state oncology societies involvement to develop care guidelines, well-being resources, and mental health advocacy. CONCLUSION Our study suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected oncologist burnout, fulfillment, practice health, cancer care, and workforce. It illuminates where professional organizations could play a significant role in oncologist well-being.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy