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Being a teleradiologist was a nightmare at first, but now it’s my dream job

Practicing in teleradiology is amazing, or it’s your worst nightmare.

How do I know? Because I’ve been in two telerad positions that couldn’t have been more different.

The first one was so unbearable that I left after just a year, thinking I’d never go back to teleradiology again. The second—my current position—is truly my dream job, thanks to great work-life balance, an integrated reading platform, incredible support teams, and reachable colleagues. 


Now, I can confidently recommend teleradiology to all radiologists, no matter where they are in their careers. But first, it’s important to figure out whether the teleradiology practice you’d be working for will help make your life and your job easier, not more difficult.

Here’s my cautionary tale about how to avoid a bad situation while finding true happiness in teleradiology—all by asking the right questions and knowing what to look for.


My first teleradiology experience: What went wrong


After my fellowship , I wanted to practice in teleradiology so I could have more flexibility. I just had my daughter and I thought that reading remotely would be family-friendly, offering me the best chance at being the mom I wanted to. After making the switch, I learned very quickly that not all teleradiology practices are the same.
 
For starters, the flexibility that I was seeking was nonexistent. I had no input into my hours, and it was nearly impossible to take time off if something came up (and, of course, with kids, things often do!). I also had no backup, and nobody to ask for a second opinion — it was all me, all the time. Essentially, the group gave me a reading list, the hospital phone number, and the ER phone number. That was it. Often, I didn’t even have comparison exams, prior reports, or other information I needed to do my job. It was sink or swim.

I felt similarly abandoned when it came to technical support, and even had to purchase my own tech equipment.

So, when my one-year contract was up, I was out – thinking I’d never do teleradiology again.

 

The decision to give it another try

Back in the small community hospital setting, though, the department director would praise the after-hours coverage we got from vRad. He always spoke so highly of them that I couldn’t resist talking to them and finding out more about their employment process. After all, I still really desired the work-life balance and flexibility potential of teleradiology.

This time, if I was going to work in teleradiology again, I knew what questions to ask: 
 
  • What does onboarding look like? Will I be introduced to the rest of the practice? Will I have a colleague to reach out to with questions or for support?
  • Will you provide my equipment and technology, or will it be deducted from my pay?
  • What type of administration and operational support do you provide?
  • What type of tech support do you provide if something happens? Is it 24/7/365?
  • Will I have access to all the patient information I need to support the highest standard of care?
  • What if I need a consult or am not comfortable reading a case?
  • If there is a critical finding, how do I quickly let the ordering physician know?
  • Do I have a say in setting my hours?

What happens if I need to take a break, leave early, have an emergency, or need to take an unexpected day off?

I entered the interview very skeptical, and after my previous experience, I didn’t take the decision lightly. Based on vRad’s answers, though, I came out convinced that it was worth giving teleradiology another go.

My vRad experience: Supported, valued, trusted


vRad lived up to all of the claims they made in our interview and more. From the very beginning, I experienced this incredible culture where people went out of their way to make me feel welcome and supported. When I’m reading, I am never alone. I can consult with my colleagues easily and at any time of day since I’m never the only one on shift. All I need to do is look to see who else is online, pop open a chat and reach out. Everyone is always happy to help.

The best part is, this cooperative culture builds work relationships that have, over time, turned into true friendships for me. We share news about life events, we exchange holiday cards, and I literally speak with some of them more than I speak with lifelong friends from outside of work.

With the practice’s physician support teams just the click of a button away, I am no longer responsible for anything but interpreting images. For example, when I have a critical finding, I just click a button—they do all the work of getting the right person on the phone so we can have a conversation, without the hassle. I never have to worry about trying to find referrers, getting bounced around over the phone, faxing a report, and tracking down prior reports. It all gets done for me!

The integrated system has all the tools and information I need, and if I have tech issues, a 24/7/365 tech support team member hops into the system, takes control of my screen, and fixes the problem for me. In a few instances where I had a hardware problem, they overnighted me new hardware (and the practice didn’t fault me one bit for not being able to operate in the meantime). Plus, vRad provides all my technology—always state of the art—which is a very pleasant change from my old practice where I had to buy my own equipment.

I also finally found the flexibility I was craving. Not only do I have a say in choosing my work hours I can take short breaks when I need to. And if an emergency arises, they understand and will find the alternate coverage–even ask how they can help! When my dog was dying (a 14-year-old Weiner dog that I still miss terribly), they turned my list off and told me to take those last moments together, no questions asked.

To put it simply, I really do feel like a valued member of the vRad team—and I value them right back in return.  What I learned that I hope you can take with you, is if remote radiology is something you’re interested in, it’s imperative to ask the right questions. I’m so glad I gave vRad a chance and I wish for every radiologist to experience what I’ve found here.


Let’s chat


As you’re evaluating your next radiology career move, I hope you consider vRad. Practicing radiology from home can be very rewarding for radiologists of all backgrounds. If you’d like to speak to me directly, please request to be contacted here and mention my name. I’d be happy to share my experience and answer your questions.

Author Jaime Salvatore, DO

vRad Radiologist

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