The Positive and Negative Psychological Effects of Working in Oncology

32 Pages Posted: 14 May 2013

Date Written: May 10, 2013


Background: Workplace exposure to traumatic events has potential to produce both positive and negative psychological effects. This cross sectional study examined whether such positive or negative effects are evidenced in UK oncology settings and the variables associated with them. Oncology settings have particular features that would suggest higher levels of occupational distress but oncologists are at no greater risk of poor mental health than other specialists (Graham & Ramirez, 2002). Methods: Participants were clinical and non-clinical staff of four NHS oncology departments in central England (UK) (n =149; response rate 30%). The study assessed levels of positive and negative effects of traumatic exposure using The Changes in Outlook Questionnaire - short form (Joseph, Linley, Shelvin Good fellow & Butler, 2006). Results: The study reported mean levels of negative effects (when prorated) equivalent to those reported in other studies using similar validated scales. These studies include samples of disaster workers, nurses, psychotherapists and funeral directors. Levels of positive effects (when similarly prorated) exceeded those in samples of members of a trauma support organisation, college students, disaster workers, general nurses, funeral directors and psychotherapists by 30%. Multiple regression revealed only received social support significantly accounted for variance in the positive (p>.05) or negative (p>.001) effects of traumatic exposure. Conclusion: These findings suggest positive and negative effects of traumatic exposure need to be considered as potentially significant occupational phenomena in oncology settings. These findings also suggest a hypothesis as to why there is oncology specific resilience in the face of particular occupational demands.

Keywords: Trauma, Growth, Oncology, Occupational, Stress

Suggested Citation

Perry, Andrew and Robertson, Noelle, The Positive and Negative Psychological Effects of Working in Oncology (May 10, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

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