Burnout is almost twice as common among physicians compared to other US workers. The burnout rate varies widely by specialty and radiologists are right at the average with 45% reporting symptoms of burnout.
According to the Medscape Radiologist Lifestyle, Happiness, & Burnout Report 2019, only 25% of radiologists consider themselves to be very or extremely happy in their jobs, while 53% are very or extremely happy outside their jobs. This discrepancy between workplace and personal happiness is startling, and it may reflect the burnout experienced by many radiologists.
What is Burnout?
According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is a type of work-related stress that is “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
This type of job-related burnout may have devastating effects on both your physical and mental health. Radiologists experiencing burnout may feel a lack of motivation for their jobs, which may lead to a lack of compassion or care when working with patients. Eventually, they may even struggle with remembering why they entered the medical field.
Signs of Burnout
- There are some specific signs to look for to determine if you experiencing burnout. Ask yourself the following questions to see if this may be happening to you.
- Have you become cynical about your work or impatient or critical with co-workers or patients?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating and being productive?
- Have you experienced physical symptoms, such as a loss of energy, a change in sleep habits, unexplained headaches, intestinal problems, or other physical problems?
- Do you feel disillusioned or dissatisfied with your work?
- Do you use food, alcohol, or drugs as an escape mechanism?
Causes of Burnout for Radiologists
It may be common for radiologists to experience a feeling of disconnection in the workplace. Due to the nature of the job, they may not have many opportunities for interaction with patients or their referring physicians.
According to Cheri L. Canon, MD, FACR Chair of Radiology at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, the reading room can also be an isolating environment, which may lead to radiologists feeling cut-off from their patients and colleagues.
A variety of factors contribute to burnout, including the following:
- Working excessive hours or lack of work/life balance.
- Lack of respect from administrators and co-workers.
- Feeling like a cog in a wheel.
- Lack of control.
- Bureaucratic tasks, such as excessive paperwork.
- Insufficient compensation.
- Emphasis on profits over patients.
- Government regulations.
- Increase in digital recordkeeping, such as EHRs, which may be timeconsuming and distracting.
- Lack of respect from patients.
How do Radiologists Cope with Burnout?
According to the Medscape Report, 54 percent of radiologists use exercise to cope with burnout, 41% talk with family members or close friends, 36% sleep, and 35% listen to music. These are all healthy techniques that may be helpful in dealing with burnout.
Unfortunately, some radiologists engage in more destructive behaviors to cope, such as isolating themselves from others, eating junk food, binge eating, drinking alcohol, smoking, and using marijuana or prescription drugs. These coping mechanisms may lead to health problems and make the situation worse.
How to Prevent and Overcome Burnout
Individual physicians have varying levels of how much stress they can tolerate, and what one sees as burnout, another may see as a normal amount of stress or fatigue. It’s important to remember that not everyone handles the physical, emotional, or mental stress of burnout in the same way, but there are some things you can do to help alleviate the stress of burnout.
- Find and address any sources of job dissatisfaction.
- Work to develop self-care habits that will reduce stress and improve your physical, mental, and emotional health, including eating healthy foods, staying active, and getting adequate sleep.
- Make sure you are properly balancing your work with the rest of your life by taking adequate time off for vacation or personal time and spending time with your family and friends.
- Remember why you chose your field and what accomplishments you have achieved.
- Find support when needed, either through colleagues, a support group, or close friends and family members.
The Role of Medical Facilities and Organizations
Medical facilities and organizations may also help prevent burnout by creating a culture that provides radiologists and other medical professionals with the support they need to be effective in their jobs and satisfied with their work. Below are some things organizational leaders may do to help reduce burnout.
- Encourage an atmosphere of community and connectivity to reduce the isolation many radiologists and physicians may be experiencing.
- Model behaviors that encourage wellness among staff members.
- Advocate for ways to reduce stress and encourage overall wellness.
- Help eliminate the stigma of burnout by encouraging staff members to find help if they need it.
- Pay attention to individual staff members to see signs of potential burnout and prevent it.
- Measure data and use it to monitor progress.
- Consider creating a wellness center or forming a committee to address burnout prevention and job satisfaction.
- Prioritize patient care and physician satisfaction.
- Coordinate goals, roles, and processes so they are aligned.
- Create an environment where staff members are all respected and valued.
- Acknowledge accomplishments to boost morale.
- Improve efficiency by consolidating tasks and eliminating unnecessary work.
- Consider implementing innovative AI technology to streamline workflow, automate routine tasks, and improve reporting, so radiologists can focus on consistently providing accurate reports and recommendations as efficiently as possible.
- Implement PACS and EHR patient context integration to improve efficiency and save time when accessing clinical data.
- Analytic technologies
If you think you may be experiencing burnout, pay attention to how you feel, and address your concerns so you can get the help you need. It’s important to take care of yourself so you can be effective in your job as you take care of others. Remember the reasons why you chose this profession, and remind yourself of your achievements and accomplishments as you take the necessary steps to reduce your stress, improve your wellness, and become passionate about your work again.