Dr. Seldon Taswell Takes on Physician Burnout at ASTRO

A panel discussion will explore self-care in radiation oncology and offer insight into work-life balance.

For Crystal Seldon Taswell, M.D., self-care is a must to keep stress in check.

As a Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center radiation oncologist and assistant professor in radiation oncology for the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Dr. Seldon Taswell likes walks on the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center campus. A stroll on the lush “jungle” pathways covered by banyan trees, palms and tropical flora can help shake off a difficult day, she said as she discussed her upcoming participation in an American Society of Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) panel discussion on physician burnout.

Dr.Seldon Taswell walking on campus near Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Crystal Seldon Taswell, M.D., will address ASTRO attendees with strategies to counter burnout.

“The most exciting thing about our panel discussion on burnout is that we’re addressing it, making it known that it is a problem within our field,” said Dr. Seldon Taswell.

Physician burnout is a long-term stress reaction marked by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a lack of sense of personal accomplishment. For physicians, the pressures from family responsibilities, time constraints, chaotic environments, electronic health records and paperwork, as well as a lack of control on the pace of each work day, can lead to the reaction.

The Epidemic of Physician Burnout

The American Medical Association lists the condition as an epidemic among physicians. In the medical field, it is a growing phenomenon that can lead to decreased patient satisfaction, medical errors and poor working relationships.

At the upcoming ASTRO conference, which takes place Oct. 1-4 in San Diego, Calif., Dr. Seldon Taswell will offer her thoughts and firsthand experience, alongside several other physicians. Together, they will explore the topic and tactics for self-care during a panel discussion, “Getting It All Done: Practical Strategies at All Career Stages,” on Oct. 2.

“It’s a huge problem because it leads to other issues in your personal and professional life, such as depression, anxiety issues, even suicidal ideation,” said Dr. Seldon Taswell.

Burnout Common in Medical Careers

With the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout in medicine moved to the forefront. Physicians and staff were taxed with long hours, overrun emergency departments, insurance denials, burdensome paperwork and processes and policies that changed almost daily. Research on the topic found that, among physicians, the condition increased more than 20% and that physicians maintain a considerably higher rate than other occupations.

“Since COVID, a lot of people are talking about it and ways to avoid it, as well as overcome it,” said Dr. Seldon Taswell.

The panel will offer practical strategies for practicing physicians at different stages of their careers, such as through parenting, career changes and academic pursuits. It will also discuss the challenges for women in medicine.

Dr. Seldon Taswell will co-moderate part of the discussion and provide background on the extent of burnout within radiation oncology and medicine in general. She will also discuss the curriculum gap for residents regarding time management, balancing clinical and research work, and learning boundaries for better work-life balance in an always-connected world.

Simple things like reading a book, spending time with family or getting coffee can help, said Dr. Seldon Taswell, who hopes conference attendees will be able to identify the causes and interventions before the condition affects their personal and professional lives.

“Our culture is geared toward multitasking, and not everyone can multitask,” offered Dr. Seldon Taswell. “We need to prioritize self-care.”

Tags: Dr. Crystal Seldon Taswell, physician burnout, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center