Radiology practices are struggling to retain adequate radiologist staffing to cover their clinical duties. A study by the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute® (HPI) showed that between 2014 and 2018, approximately 40% of radiologists went through job separation.1 Radiologists may leave practices for multiple reasons, including shifting radiology positions, retirement, termination and transitioning to a career outside of radiology.2
The annual workforce surveys conducted by the ACR Commission on Human Resources in 2018 and 2019 both demonstrated a wide-open job market.3,4 Following the Great Resignation that spun off of COVID-19, the number of job postings at the ACR Career Center have further increased to record levels. Radiologists are a practice’s most important and valuable asset. Without them, the practice can’t thrive. The AMA estimates that the cost to replace a physician in a practice is around $1 million.5
So, what can leaders do? One critical leadership skill some leaders overlook is listening.6
First, leaders need to meet with their radiologists individually to hear what interests them most. Previous research suggests that physicians who spend at least 20% of their time doing what they enjoy most experience less burnout.7 Radiologist burnout has been associated with intention to leave.8 By supportively channeling resources to help radiologists focus on their career growth, organizations are more likely to retain their physicians. For instance, practices can create leadership opportunities for radiologists who are interested in management.
Second, leaders need to offer a safe space to genuinely hear their radiologists’ concerns regarding the practice. Individual radiologists on the front lines as local leaders may offer practical solutions to operational issues such as workflow, staffing and ergonomics. Innovative solutions then can be brought forward into the practice that can help the organization grow and move forward. For example, an individual radiologist may be aware of an AI solution that can help streamline local radiology worklists that ultimately may be scaled to benefit the whole enterprise. By listening, leaders are afforded unique opportunities to leverage empathy and emotional intelligence to improve the practice’s operations.
Third, and perhaps most important, the long-term benefit of repeated listening by leaders is trust and loyalty among their radiologists. By being open, sincere and transparent, leaders can engage in conversations that lead to a long-term dialogue, which in turn can initiate effective change.
This month’s cover story on wellness within the profession offers insight on how radiologists can fend off burnout at their practices. It also includes observations and best practices that can help leaders solidify relations with their radiologists and retain their most valuable resource: people.