Personal well-being is not a new topic for physicians. Though fully aware of the repercussions of stress and burnout, physicians and radiologists themselves are on the verge of burnout.
Burnout in physicians, particularly radiologists, has accelerated in recent years, putting patient care at risk. Radiologists are one of the top 10 medical specialists with burnout and are among the most unhappy physicians. According to a 2019 Medscape report on radiologists’ burnout, among the survey respondents, 44% reported burnout.
Matter of fact, radiologists are opting for early retirement like never before. 50% of retirees today are under the age of 55, which was just 20% in 2018.
With increasing radiologists’ burnout, it is highly impossible for diagnostic centers and health systems to achieve increased efficiency and productivity with fewer diagnostic errors.
But the good news is that small changes in the work environment and work culture can enable diagnostic centers and health systems to effectively reduce stress and burnout in radiologists.
Here are 5 easy ways to reduce radiologists’ stress and burnout
Radiologists often overwork and have super-packed schedules which is the primary reason for their burnout. The cognitive overload due to increased workload and working hours has a deleterious effect on their mental and physical health. Simple exercises like walking, if not strenuous cardiovascular exercises, for just as much as 20 to 30 minutes can help in improving radiologists’ mood and productivity.
So health institutions should push their radiology staff to make exercises part of their everyday routine.
2. Encourage off-work time
Working in dark rooms for long hours every day doesn’t do much good for radiologists. In fact, working in dark rooms for prolonged hours increases their weariness. Hence, radiologists must be encouraged to take a 10-minute break every hour away from the reading room and the black console screen. This will improve their focus and reduce the chances of misdiagnosis and misinterpretations.
Not just short breaks, but even vacations are critically important for destressing. The Medscape report states that only 43% of radiologists take weeks off (max of 3 to 4) annually. Encouraging off-work time is one of the cost-effective ways to improve radiologists’ performance and efficiency.
3. Implement mindfulness in the workplace
In simple words mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in a situation, aware of what we are doing and not overwhelmed by the things that are happening around us. Research shows that when the human brain is trained to be mindful, it actually undergoes physical remodeling.
Radiologists and physicians are exposed to ubiquitous stress on a daily basis. The culture of perfectionism only aggravates the situation. Through mindful meditation radiologists and physicians can improve their well-being as well as the quality of care they provide.
According to research, mindfulness meditation has a constructive effect on stress, burnout, depression, and empathy among healthcare professionals. Including mindfulness meditation as part of the work culture will enable health institutions to cater to the mental health of their medical staff.
4. Cater to workplace ergonomics
Ergonomics is the least considered factor of radiologists’ stress and fatigue. The one size fits all workstation model no longer works in any department, let alone radiology.
Each workstation must be established or remodeled as per the individual’s physique like size, height, vision, etc. The display must be positioned at a point that is in conjunction with the viewer’s eyeline.
Not just the display, the other viewing conditions must also be optimized to reduce eye stress due to glare and ambient light. As silly as it sounds, even the wrong chair can increase stress and fatigue in radiologists in the form of neck pain and back pain.
Also, the workstation must be designed to encourage natural and healthy movement to avoid the strains that radiologists can get from not moving.
5. Invest in radiologist-aiding technology
Increasing radiologist shortage is a huge concern for health systems and diagnostic centers. According to AAMC, which stands for Association of American Medical Colleges, by 2033, the U.S. is expected to face a shortage of 17,000 to 42,000 radiologists, pathologists, and psychiatrists.
The growing shortage of radiologists is even more concerning with fast-growing medical image data. Radiologists are reading 78% more images than they did in 2008.
Hence it is critical for diagnostic centers and health systems to invest in technology advancements (like CAD, CADe, CADx) that can help in easing radiologists’ work. Current technology advancements like artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, etc., are promising greater benefits for radiologists and health institutions.
With the help of AI, numerous manual tasks in radiology such as image sorting, case allocation, report generation, etc., can be automated. By automating time-consuming manual tasks, radiologists will be able to read more images efficiently and their workload stress can be better handled.
Mostly, it’s only the physician that gets recognized for his efforts and contribution to patient care. But, in the backdrop, radiologists work much harder and for longer hours, and it is their diagnosis that enables a physician to provide optimal patient care.
These backdrop healthcare professionals are now at a greater risk of burnout than any other physicians or medical workers. Radiologists’ stress and burnout not just affect patient care, it also affects the reputation of health institutions. It’s high time for health systems and diagnostic centers to cater to the health (physical, mental, and emotional) of their radiology staff.
As a leading AI health tech firm Synapsica is committed to building solutions that will help healthcare institutions to reduce stress and burnout in their radiology staff. Our AI solutions, Spindle and SpindleX, are gaining more attention and popularity for automating 70% of radiologists’ manual tasks in spine imaging.
To know how Spindle and SpindleX can help reduce radiologists’ stress and burnout, click below.