Self-care and stress relief. These issues are becoming much more common conversation topics in radiology circles because they accompany another hot button issue—burnout. In today’s medical environment, it’s become increasingly critical for radiologists to find ways to mitigate the pressures they feel daily in the workplace.
Fortunately, according to industry experts, there are strategies providers can implement to reduce the myriad stresses they consistently encounter.
“Stress can’t be avoided,” says Gary Brown, PhD, a California-based licensed psychotherapist who specializes in stress management for medical professionals. “It’s not whether you’ll have it, it’s how you’ll deal with it.”
Having several coping mechanisms in place can dramatically decrease the impact that work-related stress can have on your personal and professional lives, he says.
The Overall Problem
While burnout isn’t a new topic in radiology, its impact does not appear to be diminishing, creating a growing need for stress relief.
“The pervasiveness of stress in the workplace is tremendous, and it’s expanding,” Brown says. “There are so many issues related to healthcare—the need to control costs, the need to see more patients, and an overall increase in volume and acuity.”
In fact, according to a 2019 Medscape report on burnout among radiologists, only 25% of providers report being very or extremely happy at work, and 53% indicate they’re happier outside the workplace. Among the survey respondents, 44% say they are experiencing burnout.
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Those who feel affected say they are more likely to make unintended errors, to feel less motivated, and to become more exasperated with patients and peers. They attribute the problems to spending too much time at work, a lack of respect from patients and peers, insufficient reimbursement, a lack of autonomy, bureaucratic tasks, government regulation, a greater emphasis on profit over patients, and increased computerization.
If left unchecked, Brown says, providers face an increased risk of stress-related illnesses, as well as deleterious effects on their sleep and mood. They also chance becoming demoralized about their work altogether. Still, when faced with these ongoing pressures, only 10% of providers report seeking help, based on the Medscape survey’s findings.
Do-It-Yourself Stress Management
While professional counseling can be beneficial if you’re experiencing burnout, there are self-care tactics you can employ to help diminish the impacts, says Kees Kennedy, MPH, PhD, a mindfulness-based intervention specialist based in The Netherlands.
“It’s important to start managing your stress at the individual level,” he says. “It’s important to pay attention to mindfulness meditation, hobbies and interests, and taking care of your relationships with others.”
To maximize your control over your stress level, Brown adds, consider following these nine avenues.
When you start feeling yourself becoming more stressed, carve out time to invest in strenuous exercise that you enjoy. According to the Medscape report, only 35% of radiologists find time to work out at least four times a week. Finding time to work up a sweat can kick up your endorphins, Brown says, improving your mood and your productivity.
2. Structure time
This can be easier said than done, Kennedy acknowledges, pointing out that most radiologists encounter not only a substantial stack of images to read when they come to work, but also the expectation that the work will be completed quickly. Still, Brown advises, try to divide your responsibilities into time slots. Doing so can break the work up into more manageable pieces and help you maintain a more normal schedule. “Figure out your management techniques,” Brown says. “Look at your workload and determine how much needs to get done right now and what doesn’t need to be handled right away. You have to prioritize.”