An analysis by Assistant Professor Cory M. Pfeifer, MD, MS, department of radiology at Dallas’ University of Texas SW Medical Center is published in Volume 15, Issue 3, of the Journal of the American College of Radiology. While the need for pediatric radiologists continues to rise, fellowship interest in this subspecialty is on the decline. Pfeifer states that from 2013 to 2018 there were progressive declines in fellowship interest in pediatric radiology and it seems this struggle will continue. What if a lack of interest in this subspecialty continues? How will this affect patients in the future?
After reassessing the 2018 to 2019 fellowship participation in pediatric radiology, it became clear that this subspecialty was hardly recovering: When comparing the number of pediatric radiology fellows that trained in 2018 to those training in 2019, there are only four more accredited pediatric radiology fellows. Data collected from the Alliance of Academic Chief Residents in Radiology shows that the alliance expects enrollment in the pediatric radiology fellowship participation to continue to fall.
According to Pfeifer, as the demand for pediatric radiologists continues to soar and the lack of interest in this subspecialty persists, the number of pediatric radiologists experiencing burnout is also high.
3 Ways an Ongoing Shortage of Pediatric Radiologists Could Negatively Impact Future Care
1. Potential for Salaries to Stall
With a labor shortage, the percentile benchmarks for productivity may rise. This can make it difficult to negotiate for a pay increase. Furthermore, these shortages could bring about the need to hire less qualified pediatric leaders. These leaders may be hired at discounted rates, which could have a lasting effect on the pediatric radiologists’ wage. Without adequate salary growth, recruiting new radiologists becomes even more challenging. As this cycle continues, the quality of care the patient receives and the safety provided may be negatively affected.
2. Quality May Suffer
Despite the pediatric radiologist shortage, the number of patients needing care remains the same. Some patient may receive care from medical professionals who do not have as extensive a background in the field of medical imaging that a pediatric radiologist does. Staffing with radiologists who are properly trained is a crucial aspect of being able to provide patients with optimal care. When there are not enough qualified technologists and/or pediatric radiologists, non-radiologist clinicians may be tasked with performing revenue-producing procedures like ultrasounds.
Pfeifer explains that pediatricians have started becoming more involved with the ultrasound services that are provided bedside, which yields more minimally-invasive procedures to radiologists. This interest comes at an inopportune time: When we might have fewer pediatric radiologists on hand; thus, creating the perfect environment for a workplace that is full of stress.
3. An Increase in Unhappiness Could Lead to a Higher Turnover
When there are not many pediatric radiologists available, working radiologists find it difficult to use their vacation time or to take advantage of other expected benefits. When radiologists are unable to take time off, employee turnover rate increases, damaging the division even further.
So, What is the Solution?
In his analysis, Pfeiffer provided a few ideas as to what can be done to encourage more students to consider a career as a pediatric radiologist. For example, he recommends developing inventive hiring practices and making a career as a pediatric radiologist appear as an attractive career option for potential hires.
An honest, transparent and professional interview experience along with reimbursement for expenses and a decision made in a timely manner are characteristics of a facility that employs high character leaders: This makes it clear why some of the major hospitals have not experienced the extended employment issues seen elsewhere, despite the current issues.