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Invited Commentary
June 25, 2012

Oncologists Responding to Grief: Comment on “Nature and Impact of Grief Over Patient Loss on Oncologists' Personal and Professional Lives”

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Divisions of Hematology Oncology (Dr Shayne) and Palliative Care (Dr Quill), University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York.

Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(12):966-967. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.2035

The practice of oncology can be stressful. While some stress can be motivating and challenging, in its extremes, stress can lead to emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and self-perception of incompetence, all of which are considered hallmarks of burnout.

Stress and burnout should not be confused with grief. Grief is deep mental anguish arising from loss.1 Since death and loss are intrinsic aspects of oncologists' practice, grief is common, whether it be over the physical absence of a patient or the more abstract surrender of a meaningful joint struggle. Unaddressed grief over time can clearly contribute to burnout, which is an occupational hazard for physicians in general and oncologists in particular.

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