As a member of the ACR Well-Being Committee, Ian A. Weissman, DO, FACR, knows how important it is to focus attention on clinician burnout. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated burnout in our healthcare colleagues, and the data coming out about increasing rates of burnout is extremely worrisome,” he says.
Weissman, who also serves as president of the Wisconsin Radiological Society (WRS), chair of the ACR Commission on Patient- and Family-Centered Care’s Outreach Committee, and chair of the ACR Veterans Affairs Committee, has worked with the WRS to put together a free Dec. 12 webinar on well-being geared specifically to residents and fellows. Weissman spoke with the Bulletin about the current state of radiologist burnout, the need for leaders to prioritize well-being, and what attendees can expect to learn from the Dec. 12 event.
How did the idea for this webinar come about?
The increasing incidence of burnout in our colleagues has been very concerning to me even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. According to the 2021 Medscape Radiologist Lifestyle, Happiness and Burnout Report, nearly 42% of radiologists surveyed said that they were burned out.1 This increased to 47% in 2022. AuntMinnie.com has surveyed trends in radiology for the past 23 years and chronicled in its annual Minnies awards, that over the past 4 years, the burnout of radiologists has become the biggest threat to radiology.2 In addition, more than 5 million workers have quit their jobs — and careers, for some — since February 2021. Healthcare is the second-largest industry hit, reporting losses of 20% of the workforce over the past two years.
Overall, healthcare employment is down by an estimated 500,000 workers.3 It is estimated that up to 47% of U.S. healthcare workers plan to leave their positions by 2025.4 This threatens to destabilize the healthcare system in the United States. As we all know, radiology is experiencing widespread shortages in staffing across multiple modalities and is struggling to maintain and recruit staff.5
It made sense to make burnout and well-being one of the main topics during the WRS annual meeting in April 2023. As a prelude to that comprehensive discussion, we decided to hold a webinar on well-being directed toward residents and fellows on Dec. 12, 2022, at 7 p.m. CT, and it’s free for all to attend.
What can attendees expect from the December event?
I have known Frank J. Lexa, MD, MBA, FACR, and David P. Fessell, MD, for many years. Both are thought leaders in the radiology profession. Dr. Lexa is the chief medical officer for the Radiology Leadership Institute® (RLI). Dr. Fessell is a radiologist and certified executive coach who has recently shifted his focus to improving well-being among his colleagues.
Some of the greatest advice I have learned throughout my career has come directly from radiology colleagues like Drs. Lexa and Fessell, who have walked in our shoes, and some of the most powerful strategies I’ve incorporated into my practice have come from listening to our radiology colleagues who continuously mentor us through organizations like the RLI.
Dr. Lexa’s presentation, “Leadership Strategies to Succeed Despite Work-Work Imbalance, Burnout and Other Challenges in Radiology,” will discuss the impact of rising clinical demands on burnout, the definition of work-work balance and why fixing it is critical to our future, and how leaders and leadership have contributed to rising rates of burnout and short-term thinking in radiology. Attendees will learn how to develop personal and institutional strategies for mitigating imbalance and burnout and will be able to consider changes in workflow and work structure with concomitant implementation of leadership, mentorship, and professional development programs.
Dr. Fessell’s presentation, “Thriving Under Stress: Leading Yourself and Influencing Others,” will examine evidence-based strategies that individuals can access to decrease burnout, including mindfulness, support groups, and coaching. Dr. Fessell will talk about “positive contagion,” how you naturally influence others as you move toward wellness, and post-traumatic growth and how it helps us benefit from challenges.
What is the importance of leadership in well-being?
Leaders define the culture of the organization. We are all leaders, and we each have the power and responsibility to contribute to a culture of well-being at our workplace.
The most effective leaders are servant leaders who put their team first. Their leadership style emphasizes caring and authenticity. While they are highly motivated to meet organizational objectives, they do this while focusing on the growth and development of their team. Jim Collins popularized the term Level 5 leaders which his research found are the most effective leaders within organizations. He found that while Level 5 leaders display a tremendous professional will for their organization to succeed, they do this while serving with great modesty and humility. While it takes great communication skills, active listening and emotional intelligence to be great leader, if this ability is not innate, leaders can be trained to become more effective. Simply demonstrating care for one’s employees goes a long way toward decreasing burnout. Leaders should routinely ask their employees questions such as, “What do you look forward to every day about your job?” and “How can I help you be more satisfied at work?”
Why should leaders prioritize well-being?
The ongoing Great Resignation has demonstrated to us that being committed to a culture of well-being is no longer optional. We must substantially improve our well-being strategies to encourage our colleagues to stay in the profession. We can look to our neighbors in other countries as well as to the rural areas of our country to learn what we will start to experience in our larger cities if we do not prioritize well-being. For example, EDs are closing due to critical work staff shortages.6 In radiology, our patients are experiencing delays in receiving the critical results of their imaging studies, as well as much-needed diagnostic and therapeutic radiologic procedures.
What do you do to help reduce the stress of burnout?
Our daily lives are filled with complexities, so I try to keep my strategies simple and attainable. Effective communication is one of our most powerful strategies to achieving a culture of well-being, so I try to do this effectively at work and at home. Food and exercise have a tremendous impact on well-being, so I make daily healthy food choices, and I walk every day — being close to nature restores me. As a weekly energizer, I sail or snow ski. Salsa dancing is one of my passions, and I am a violinist. Being connected to my family, friends, and community has helped me stay centered during the pandemic. Each evening, I learn and exchange knowledge with my friends and colleagues around the world through social media @DrIanWeissman.
What well-being resources are available for ACR members?
The ACR offers numerous resources through the ACR Radiology Well-Being Program.
Additionally, the National Academy of Medicine just released their National Plan for Health Workforce Well-Being that proposes impactful solutions. The U.S Surgeon General just released two seminal resources on Addressing Health Worker Burnout and Addressing Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being that proposes strategies that organizations can adopt and build upon.
If you or a colleague you know is experiencing a crisis, please reach out for help.
One powerful resource is the Physician Support Line 1-(888)-409-0141 staffed by physicians for physicians. I would like each of my colleagues to know how critical you are to our profession and how the hard work you do daily has had such a profound impact on improving the health of our collective community.