Radiologists remain a group of health professionals that are highly susceptible to the risk of burnout. Burnout rates among radiologists range from 45% for actual reported cases of burnout to 60%+ for those unhappy or dissatisfied with work. The exact statistics vary by reporting agency, such as studies by Medscape versus other health professionals, including M.G. Myriam Hunink, MD, PhD.
From my experience in the industry, the biggest factors contributing to radiologist burnout derive from the expected workload of radiologists. Employed radiologists are simply expected to work more and cover for groups where recruitment lacks. A small increase in imaging increases risk of burnout. However, radiologists can reduce their risk for burnout by taking a few easy-to-implement steps.
1. Take Vacation Time Accordingly.
Radiologists typically receive significant vacation time, but many do not take it for fear of what might happen. Will the employer find another radiologist, or will patients suffer? Those questions reflect the need to take plenty of vacation even when you might feel working would better serve others.
2. Find Ways to Get Away From the Reading Console.
The console might be your priority. But, sitting at a monitor endlessly strains the eyes, tires the mind, and even increases your risk of health problems. Set your phone or personal device to remind you to stand and walk around your office or even to the restroom and back at least once every other hour.
3. Consider the Use of AI and Other Workstation Tools.
The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning may improve the volume of images read and provide a level of reassurance against your interpretation. Organizations that have implemented AI-guided systems and advanced workstation tools see an increase in patient satisfaction and positive outcomes. Additional tools that improve workflows, such as collaboration portals, will go a long way in lowering your risk and burnout and helping you stay organized throughout the workday too.
4. Implement Data-Based Feedback for Growing as a Practice.
Your office staff supports your work, and you must support them as well. Instead of simply providing simple feedback, base all improvement feedback on cold, hard fact. Use data, such as number of reading, percentage of billing accuracies, and timeliness, as key indicators of workplace performance. When an issue arises, let the data do the talking. For practices working with other health facilities, establish approved metrics for tracking your performance and setting realistic administrative workflows in your business. Identify what is to be measured with the health system beyond turnaround time and agree on those target metrics. Setting clear expectations also reduces the risk of overload.
5. Thoroughly Consider All Options Before Taking the Step to Consolidate Into a Larger Group.
Consolidation makes many promises, but often, those promises fail to live up to the hype. The loss of autonomy, lower rates, and corporate influence may actually lead to higher burnout rates and undermine efficiency. Always consider the full scope of consolidation, including your financial and personal sacrifices. Also, remember that not everyone is comfortable being directly daily to complete a pre-set number of image interpretations.
6. Take Time for Yourself to De-Stress Daily and Weekly.
While this tip corresponds to the first tip of vacation time, it is imperative for radiologists to take personal time to unwind and de-stress after a day at the office. Radiologists should avoid consuming excess alcohol or other unhelpful substances, but an occasional glass of wine might be acceptable. It all depends on your personal ability to build healthy coping skills and avoid mental fatigue—a precursor to burnout. Also, make sure to take a single day each week to stay away from the health facility entirely. This might not seem like a major challenge, but everyone needs at least one day away from any work per week.
Reduce Your Radiologist Burnout Risk with a Custom Approach.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing radiologist burnout. I can speak for hours about the ways to lower risk for burnout, but ultimately, it all comes down to how you view your level of stress and happiness at work. If you have previously experienced that feeling of dread at work or even had unexplained ailments, comparable to the flu or a general feeling of malaise, such symptoms may allude to burnout. Not everyone experiences burnout in the same way, but eventually, the feeling of loss and inability to meet your workload will take a mental and physical toll on your body. For those with these symptoms or that know they are on the verge of burnout, try applying the six tips listed in this article. They could help you enjoy work again; they could improve your skill and improve patient outcomes. They could do it all, but not doing anything is a one-way ticket on the burnout express.