Introduction: Little is known regarding the rate of burnout, career satisfaction, and quality of life (QOL) among surgical oncologists compared with other surgical subspecialties. Methods: The American College of Surgeons conducted a survey in 2008 involving 7,905 respondents, of whom 407 were surgical oncologists. Demographic variables, practice characteristics, career satisfaction, burnout, and quality of life (QOL) of surgical oncologists were compared with other surgical subspecialties using validated instruments. Results: Surgical oncologists were younger (mean age 49.9 years), more likely to be female (26%), and had younger children than other surgical subspecialties. With respect to practice characteristics, surgical oncologists had been in practice fewer years and had fewer nights on call per week than other surgical disciplines but worked more hours (mean 62.6/week), were more likely to be in an academic practice (59.5%), were more likely to be paid on a salaried basis (68%), and had more time devoted to non-patient activities (e.g., research). Compared with surgeons from all other specialties, surgical oncologists had similar incidence of burnout (36%), suicide ideation (4.9%), and QOL, but lower incidence of depression (24%), and better indices of career satisfaction. Conclusions: These data provide a frame of reference for valid comparisons of burnout, QOL, and career satisfaction indices for the surgical oncology community relative to all other surgical specialties. Surgical oncologists have higher career satisfaction and lower risk of depression than surgeons in other surgical disciplines but still experience high rates of burnout.
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