European radiology inches toward standards for training

March 7, 2004

The new Europe may be rapidly integrating its currency, trade, and other institutions. Setting an international standard for training radiologists is proving to be a slower process. If national societies can agree on criteria for individuals and

The new Europe may be rapidly integrating its currency, trade, and other institutions. Setting an international standard for training radiologists is proving to be a slower process.

If national societies can agree on criteria for individuals and institutions, however, European radiologists may have far more opportunity to work outside their own country or take on teleradiology studies.

The European Association of Radiology set a goal for a four-plus-one year training program of general and specialty training that many countries now follow. A three-plus-two plan is favored, however, to give trainees a chance to absorb subspecialty knowledge in neuroradiology and other subspecialties.

Two EAR committees and the Royal College of Radiology have started a voluntary training assessment program that gives feedback to residency programs on their curriculum and the experience of their trainees. About eight institutions have undergone the evaluation so far, with another four scheduled to have visits this year, Prof. Pierre Schnyder said Saturday at the European Congress of Radiology.

"The goal is not to provide certification, but to transmit a methodology to help them set a national standard for training," said Schnyder, former education committee chair for EAR.

Assessment for individuals is further behind, but some educators are pushing for a standard examination that covers practical knowledge, competence in reading, and ability to communicate findings. Such a test would supplement and standardize the current practice of self-evaluation and evaluation by mentors that now serves to mark a trainee's progress.

With radiologists already strapped for time, much of the test would need to be computerized, said Prof. Iain McCall of Keele University Medical School in Oswestry, U.K. An oral examination could round out the process, with candidates describing cases to a panel of experts.

Language presents a serious problem ? conducting the test in a single language would be difficult for many trainees, but making sure questions translate fairly into multiple languages might be just as difficult, he said.

The end result, an overall diploma, could be a means of standardizing radiology training throughout Europe, McCall said. The diploma could act as a sort of professional passport, allowing radiologists to cross borders or work on teleradiology, and giving employers the certainty that their imagers are consistently trained.