Mixed-Methods Study of the Impact of Chronic Patient Death on Oncologists’ Personal and Professional Lives Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose Although some research has found that health care professionals experience grief when their patients die, within the oncology context, few studies have examined the impact of this loss on oncology personnel. Given the paucity of empirical studies on this topic, this research explored the impact of patient death on oncologists. Methods and Materials This study used a mixed-methods design. The qualitative component used the grounded theory method of data collection and analysis. Twenty-two oncologists were recruited from three adult oncology centers. Purposive sampling was used to gain maximum variation in the sample. The quantitative component involved a convenience sample of 79 oncologists recruited through oncologist collaborators. Results The qualitative study indicated that frequent patient death has both personal and professional impacts on oncologists. Personal impacts included changes to their personality, gaining of perspective on their lives, and a strain to their social relationships. Professional impacts included exhaustion and burnout, learning from each patient death, and decision making. The frequency analysis indicated that oncologists experienced both positive and negative impacts of patient death. A majority reported that exposure to patient death gave them a better perspective on life (78.5%) and motivated them to improve patient care (66.7%). Negative consequences included exhaustion (62%) and burnout (75.9%) as well as compartmentalization of feelings at work and at home (69.6%). Conclusion Frequent patient death has an impact on oncologists' lives, some of which negatively affect the quality of life for oncologists, their families, and their patients. Copyright © 2016 by American Society of Clinical Oncology Copyright © 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017