Between empathy and grief: The mediating effect of compassion fatigue among oncologists

Gal Hayuni, Ilanit Hasson-Ohayon, Gil Goldzweig, Gil Bar Sela, Michal Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objective: Oncologists are exposed to suffering, loss, and death, which can potentially lead to grief reactions. Although grief over patients may be a natural consequence of the close and longstanding oncologist-patient relationship, the empathy that oncologists feel toward their patients may put them at risk for compassion fatigue (CF). This study examined the mediating role of the two components of CF—secondary traumatic stress (STS) and burnout—in the relation between empathy and grief among oncologists. Method: Participants included 71 Israeli oncologists. Measures consisted of a demographic questionnaire, the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief-Present, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, and the Professional Quality of Life questionnaire. Results: Oncologists reported moderate levels of grief and relatively high levels of both STS and burnout. In addition, they reported high levels of the three components of empathy: perspective taking, empathic concern, and personal distress. The PROCESS SPSS macro revealed support for the mediation model. The mediators (STS and burnout) fully accounted for the relationship between the following two components of empathy—perspective taking and personal distress—and grief. Conclusions: Oncologists commonly experience grief over patients. We found that oncologists' grief was related to their empathy, and that this association was explained by their levels of CF. The current research may mark a step toward recognizing oncologists' grief as well as understanding the processes associated with it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2344-2350
Number of pages7
Issue number12
Early online date21 Oct 2019
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • cancer
  • compassion fatigue
  • empathy
  • grief
  • oncology


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