Getting to the Root: Addressing Systemic Causes of Burnout


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Merriam-Webster defines burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of a prolonged stress or frustration.” It’s a condition that was widespread prior to the pandemic, has risen since the pandemic began, and continues to increase exponentially.

A recent survey found that over 50% of U.S. workers report feeling burned out, up from 43% before COVID. Other studies show that burnout rates are even higher among healthcare workers, with more than 60% of radiologists reporting symptoms of burnout. And it’s having an impact on the workforce. According to research, 18% of healthcare workers have resigned since the start of the pandemic, citing burnout as a primary factor.

We know that exercise, meditation, adequate sleep, and other lifestyle choices can aid in fighting the symptoms of burnout. While these solutions help individuals address symptoms, they don’t target the root cause of the problem. Radiology must look beyond these individual actions to mitigate the systemic conditions that cause burnout in the first place.

The case studies and resources in this issue examine causes of burnout among radiologists. More importantly, they offer strategies for altering our systems to improve our health, well-being, and job satisfaction. The seals at the start of each case study highlight the primary well-being levers addressed, from safety to efficiency. This issue also includes individual approaches you can implement immediately from ACR’s Radiology Well-Being Program.

I encourage you to leverage the ideas herein to improve your individual well-being and help make systemic changes that get at the root of the problem. With intentional actions focused on addressing the cause, not just the symptoms, we can reduce the incidence of burnout and increase our job satisfaction — improving patient care along the way.

Darcy J. Wolfman, MDDarcy J. Wolfman
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Nationals Capital Region, Clinical Associate and Clinical Director of Ultrasound
ACR Radiology Well-Being Program Leader




Case Studies in this Issue

Force Multiplier

A private practice’s culture change increases its employee satisfaction score and buoys its COVID-19 response.
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Overcoming Adversity

As COVID-19 flared in New Orleans after Mardi Gras, one radiology department took swift action to deploy new strategies and rethink processes to keep people safe and boost morale.
Read case study