Let’s face it — the dream job doesn’t really exist. Even if you love your position and your institution, there are going to be times when you’re frustrated and tired or when you feel ineffectual. In essence, at some point, you’re going to feel burned out.
But, when that feeling becomes the norm, that’s when the real problems occur. And, according to the 2016 Medscape Physician Life Report, burnout is the reality for 50 percent of radiologists. As a result, job satisfaction falls, patient care suffers, and workflow management becomes inefficient.
Related article: Stop Burnout in Radiology Before It Starts
Consequently, many industry leaders say it’s vital to identify why burnout occurs and pinpoint some methods, both individually and institutionally, to counteract the effects or side-step it altogether. Ignoring the problem, they say, could have grave consequences.
“Burnout threatens our existence as a specialty,” says Peter Moskowitz, MD, executive director of the Center for Professional and Personal Renewal in Palo Alto, California. “There are increasing numbers of people leaving the field prematurely. And, at the same time, medical students are shrewd. They will see what’s going on in radiology and will look elsewhere for a career.”
What’s causing the fizzle?
Knowing what’s behind the loss of enthusiasm in radiology can be integral to fixing the problem. These are some of the most common factors at play.
1. Increased imaging volume
This problem is two-fold, says Moskowitz, clinical professor of radiology emeritus at Stanford University School of Medicine. Not only has imaging utilization crept up, but the number of images taken per study—particularly with cross-sectional studies—has ballooned, as well.
In fact, according to a recent article published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, imaging workload has grown by 26% in the last 12 years. Unfortunately, the rise has outpaced practitioners’ abilities to keep up.
"Many MRI sequences and CT reconstructions are not necessary for diagnosis,” Moskowitz says. “We must find a way to reduce unnecessary images."
2. PACS and electronic medical records
While these technologies carry several benefits, interoperability problems still exist. When systems don’t communicate fluidly, it can cause frustrations and decrease radiologist efficiency.
3. RVU focus
Overall, the industry puts too much emphasis on physician RVUs, Moskowitz says.
“Physician salaries and bonuses, status within groups, partnerships — all of these decisions are now made almost exclusively on physician productivity,” he says. “And, it’s killing people.”
4. Educational debt
Nearly 55% of new trainees report student debt weight contributes heavily to their work-related stress. Most graduates and trainees enter practice with between $150,000-$200,000 of debt, he says.
Related article: Why Radiologists Are Bad With Money
5. Generational differences
Frequently, work values between older and younger radiologists differ, Moskowitz says, causing anxiety.
“It’s not that one group is correct and the other is wrong,” he says. “Their values are simply different and it results in friction in the work environment.”