ACR Bulletin

Covering topics relevant to the practice of radiology

Being Well Together

A new webinar will provide radiology residents and fellows with strategies to improve wellness and mitigate burnout. 
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Simply demonstrating care for one's employees goes a long way toward decreasing burnout.

—Ian A. Weissman, DO, FACR
November 23, 2022

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 since before the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the 2022 Medscape Radiologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report, nearly 47% of radiologists reported that they were burned out, an increase from 42% in 2021. 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.2 It is estimated that up to 47% of U.S. healthcare workers plan to leave their positions by 2025.3 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.4

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 (bit.ly/wrs-event).

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.

Using categories named in the popular book Good to Great by Jim Collins, the most effective leaders are servant leaders or Level 5 leaders — those who live for the health and success of the organization and its people. While it takes dedication, emotional intelligence, and personal humility to be a Level 5 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. 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.

Well-being resources available for ACR members

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 (physiciansupportline.com). 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.

ENDNOTES

1. Baggett SM, Martin KL, Medscape Radiologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2022. Accessed October 27, 2022.
2. Poindexter, K, The Great Resignation in Health Care and Academia: Rebuilding the Postpandemic Nursing Workforce, National Library of Medicine, bit.ly/Rebuilding-Workforce. July-Aug 2022.
3. Kelly, J, New Survey Shows That Up to 47% of U.S. Healthcare Workers Plan to Leave Their Positions by 2025, Forbes, April 19, 2022.
4. Reeves, K, Times Are Tight: Staff Shortages Prompt New Strategies, Applied Radiology.
5. American Hospital Association, AHA Report: Rural Hospital Closures Threaten Patient Access to Care, Sept. 8, 2022.

Author Raina Keefer  Contributing Writer, ACR Press