Stress Levels High Among Radiologists During COVID-19

September 2, 2020

Nationwide survey reveals most radiologists report high anxiety and stress levels, as well as challenges to coping.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put radiologists under a significant amount of stress, raising anxiety levels nationwide, according to a new survey.

In a poll of nearly 700 radiologists, 61 percent of respondents labeled their anxiety level at 7 out of 10, according to a team of researchers from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. They published their results recently in Clinical Radiology.

“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on radiologists across the nation,” wrote the team led by Ali Gholamrezanezhad, M.D., assistant professor of clinical radiology. “As these unique stressors continue to evolve, further attention must be paid to the ways in which we may continue to support radiologists working in drastically altered practice environments and in remote settings.”

To determine what radiologists were feeling and experiencing, the team sent a 43-item survey to 1,521 unique email addresses across the country. They targeted radiologists in academic medical centers, as well as those who were members of the American Society of Emergency Radiologists and the Association of University Radiologists. They received 689 radiologists from 44 states. Based on the team’s analysis, the average anxiety score was 6.72 with the most common stressors being family health (71 percent), personal health (47 percent), and financial concerns (33 percent).

Respondents also indicated that the increase in their workload and the uptick on virtual meetings have played a significant role in their stress level, limiting their ability to engage in self-care activities. Still, when they can step away from work, they report spending time with their family (63 percent) and exercising (57 percent) as their two main forms of decompressing. Others reported watching television (44 percent), reading (34 percent), and talking with friends (33 percent).

In addition to surveying the overall stress and anxiety level in the industry, the team also gathered radiologists’ perceptions about other aspects of the pandemic. Among their findings, these responses stood out:

  •  99 percent reported a decline in workload
  •  56 percent anticipated a decrease in overall income 
  • 76 percent felt their medical center was adequately prepared for a potential COVID-19 surge
  •  84 percent reported that institutional leadership response to the pandemic was acceptable or appropriate
  •  43 percent said they either did not or did not know if they had easy access to COVID-19 testing
  •  65 percent indicated they had sufficient teleradiology support
  •  51 percent reported their institution had adequate personal protective equipment for staff

The authors did note that these survey results offer “a snapshot in time” of what radiologists throughout the country are experiencing during the pandemic and that these challenges will continue to morph. But, they said, this analysis provides a foundation for future research endeavors that can examine additional economic impacts, as well as support efforts for providers.