Ask yourself: what is your current practice doing to alleviate burnout? Are they investing in programs to support your professional and personal life? Or does the burden fall on you to figure it all out?
I’ve read more radiologist burnout articles than I can count. Each is generally the same, concluding that burnout is a major problem followed by a few ideas of what radiologists can do to help themselves. But burnout is a pervasive and multidimensional problem that demands more than surface-level fixes and broad wellness discourse. Things like exercise, meditation, and spending more time with loved ones are all great ideas, but they’re not enough to bring about meaningful change when it comes to radiologist well-being.
To truly move the needle, radiology practices must step up and implement easily accessible support for their physicians.
As a vRad Medical Director, the problem of burnout is a mission critical issue to me and the rest of our practice leadership. We’ve already made significant progress towards avoiding burnout for our radiologists by optimizing the reading environment and nearly eliminating administrative tasks. So, what was next?
Listening to our radiologists we recognized the need to broaden our approach to improve happiness and overall health outside the reading room by tackling some of the obstacles in their personal life. I am thrilled to share our approach with the hope that you will look for practices that aim to do the same for you.
Group-provided Wellness and Health Support Services
In recent years, radiologists have been more willing to share their struggles, giving us visibility into their mindset and how we can help. We’ve seen an increasing number of people who are comfortable coming to us and saying, “I’m having family problems” or “I’m having personal problems,” or sharing any number of other challenges that can affect mental health.
This openness gave us a deeper understanding of our radiologists’ needs and made it clear that we needed to focus on support services that addressed their core challenges. We considered various options but ultimately decided to partner with an expert in the field of wellness and health support, VITAL WorkLife, to design a broad offering of services that will make a real difference in the daily lives of our radiologists.
- Peer coaching
Many physicians reach a point in their career where the thrill of going from medical student to trainee to full-fledged doctor starts to wear off. Over time, they may feel stagnant in their career trajectory — and that can be incredibly demoralizing.
We wanted to offer peer coaching with medical professionals outside of our practice, so that our radiologists can really open up in total privacy. Only then can they determine what will reinvigorate them — whether that means stepping up into a leadership position, stepping back and embracing our options for more flexible hours, or just finding meaning in their day-to-day work and impact on people’s lives.
Many practices might advertise that they offer coaching, but programs often connect people within the same practice, leaving the radiologist holding back and wondering how open they should be when discussing their path forward. On the contrary, we want our radiologists to be able to speak with total candor to ensure they get the full support they need.
On the best of days, radiologists are rewarded with a great deal of meaning and purpose in their job — but on the worst of days, the gravity of our profession can add up to overwhelming stress and crushing pressure.
I’ve seen how medical malpractice cases can devastate radiologists and bring up a lot of complex emotions. The opportunity to talk to a professional counselor in confidence about the mental health effects of these cases — or other complex work-related situations — can be a critical lifeline to those who are struggling. vRad radiologists now have easy access to those services.
- Legal and Financial Support
Common life events from buying or selling a house to estate planning to child custody questions can be a source of stress for anyone. We want to remove the burden of legal issues from our radiologists’ lives, so we set them up with trustworthy lawyers that can help.
We can also match our radiologists with financial advisors who can offer input on budgeting, financial planning, and debt reduction. Financial security should be a given for our radiologists, and this benefit helps them get there.
- WorkLife Concierge Services
Personal event planning, trip planning, and appointment scheduling are just a few examples of tasks that are usually manageable on their own but can be completely overwhelming when added to the to-do list of a busy radiologist who’s always juggling, always multitasking, and often feeling overwhelmed.
Utilizing our concierge service, radiologists can request almost any kind of service. The concierge will research, coordinate, and take care of the details.
Consider this real-life example: A busy working parent rushed out the door with her child on the way to the clinic, and the child spilled yogurt in the car. Ordinarily, that would mean stinky, crusty yogurt in the car all day — but the mom called WorkLife Concierge Services, who arranged for the car to be cleaned while she was at work. The yogurt was gone by the time she was ready to drive home. The radiologist mom simply paid the cleaning bill and all the logistics were taken care of for her.
Something for everyone
In designing our program, we cast a wide net knowing that burnout is an all-too-common problem — with 49% of radiologists reporting symptoms according to Medscape’s 2022 Physician Burnout and Depression Report.
I’m especially excited for the positive impact these services will have on my female colleagues who, according to recent research, are disproportionately impacted with 65% reporting burnout. In an earlier blog post I shared several strategies to address this problem. Researchers have concluded that women are more likely to shoulder increased demands at home like eldercare, childcare, and family healthcare. These new services address that head on.
Our entire practice can find relief with this program — whether a radiologist is a parent who has childcare responsibilities or a son or daughter trying to make living arrangements for an elderly parent. These challenges call for a wide variety of solutions, and that’s exactly what our programs offer.
The ultimate beneficiaries: patients
For some practices, the idea that it should be the practice’s responsibility to help radiologists manage outside stressors will require a major shift in mindset. At the end of the day, though, it’s important to keep in mind that the ultimate beneficiary of easing radiologists’ workloads are the patients.
When radiologists can focus on their work — and only on their work — they’re performing their best and delivering the excellent care that patients expect. It really is a win-win for everyone.
I love talking to radiologists about wellness and other career issues. If you want to speak to me about a potential career at vRad, please submit your contact information here and mention my name.