So You Think Radiology Is Easy?

August 29, 2012

“Radiology is easy. Anyone can do it.” Sound familiar? The reality is that lots of folks would really like to do what we do. But few can actually do it.

You’ve heard it all before, lots of times:

“You guys have it made down here in radiology.”

Or perhaps, “I should have been a radiologist.”

How about the quintessential quip, “Radiology is easy. Anyone can do it.”

Or even worse yet, “People that go into radiology are the ones that washed out or couldn’t make it in regular medicine.”

Sound familiar?

When faced with uninformed clinical colleagues or others advertising their ignorance by spewing similar catchphrases, I openly smile and retort with something like: “Not so loud. We don’t want others to know how good we really do have it here in radiology.”

Then there is the usual banter back and forth, but because time is important and there are always plenty of cases to read, I direct the conversation by suggesting something like: “I can understand why you’d want to be a radiologist. After all, it’s the best specialty there is. But you know, I do have academic connections and I can give you a recommendation for a residency program if you really want. It would only be four more years of training and then you could do what I do. Are you really interested?”

Of course they are not really interested and really only wanted a chance to grouse about things or needle me out of jealousy. After pleasantries are exchanged our tete-a-tete concludes and they go on their way. I would imagine these kinds of interchanges occur every day all over the country.

At least for me, these discussions resurrect Buffalo Springfield’s smash hit opening lyrics, “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” What is clear is that lots of folks would really like to do what we do. The reality is that few can actually do it. What is clear is that slots in radiology residency training programs have become much more competitive in recent years as the attraction of radiology has grown.

The reality is that fewer and fewer physicians can compete for those coveted slots. What is clear is that almost every practicing radiologist can truthfully say, “I have academic connections,” since we know radiologists in academic practices or have maintained some connection to previous training program faculty. The reality is that very few, if any, of these clinicians really want to be a radiologist.

This clarification of what is really happening here should empower us. We converse tongue in cheek, but realize that almost none of them could do what we do, any more than we could do what they do. The difference is that radiologists don’t want to do what they do. These kinds of conversations don’t happen in reverse. The radiologist does not go to the clinician with similar complaints.

We really do have it made. Sure we have challenges; perhaps more than any of us care to deal with. But that’s what makes our specialty so exciting. We have the privilege (and expectation) to attack diagnostic dilemmas, discover unexpected findings and suggest solutions to any number of patient care situations on a daily basis.

I say bring it on. Welcome the wordplay. It only reinforces the reason we chose to be radiologists. Recall the glory days of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Everyone in the country wanted to “be like Mike.” Fast forward to the present day. I believe the root cause of this kind of clinical chatter is that they want to be like us. I much prefer our position.