A Career in Surgical Oncology: Finding Meaning, Balance, and Personal Satisfaction

The practice of surgical oncology provides opportunities for both personal distress as well as personal satisfaction. While many surgical oncologists experience career burnout, others derive great meaning and satisfaction from their work. In this article, we review the literature on surgeon burnout, discuss potential personal and professional consequences, and consider steps individual surgeons can take to promote personal and professional satisfaction.

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In this article, we review the literature on surgeon burnout, discuss potential personal and professional consequences, and consider steps individual surgeons can take to promote personal and professional satisfaction. Such strategies include identifying professional goals, optimizing career fit, identifying and managing stressors specific to practice type, determining and achieving the optimal personal work–life balance, and nurturing personal wellness strategies.

The importance and altruism of this work have great appeal to committed physicians in training and surgical specialties have historically attracted the best and brightest medical school graduates. Surgery offers these physicians the opportunity to derive tremendous meaning from their work in addition to membership in a fraternity of dedicated and accomplished colleagues. Young surgeons typically embark upon their training in the surgical disciplines with the expectation that it will provide a fulfilling career that leads to both personal and professional satisfaction.

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