Originally published by Scott Baginski, MD on Radiology Business
Radiologists have an important choice to make at the beginning of their careers: do they want to start a fellowship after their residency or immediately join a radiology practice?
Both options can be incredibly rewarding for a young radiologist. And the good news is, there’s no wrong answer.
Radiologists often choose to continue their training after their residency and pursue a one-or two-year subspecialty fellowship. On the other hand, some may find that they would rather skip the fellowship and join a practice right away. And that’s great too! You don’t have to be fellowship-trained by any means to have a long, successful career in radiology. Some of the happiest, most successful radiologists I know are general radiologists.
When it was my turn to make this important decision, I followed my interest in cardiovascular physiology and completed a one-year cardiothoracic fellowship. I know I made the right choice, too, because it still interests me today. This is absolutely crucial if you choose to complete a fellowship—you should specialize in an area that you really enjoy. Instead of thinking about current hiring trends in the industry or what you see other colleagues doing, focus on your own passions and follow your heart.
Teleradiology: a career path worth considering
After working in traditional practice for several years, I began my career in teleradiology. The flexibility is what really appealed to me at the time—I was faced with a choice between moving my family to a new city, which nobody ever wants to do, or working from the comfort of my own home. After discussing the pros and cons of both options with my wife, I chose the home route and signed on with vRad. It’s been a fantastic experience, and I know it was the right decision.
More and more trainees are also starting to view teleradiology as a potential career path. The secret is out, it seems; it’s a tremendous option for subspecialists and generalists who want to make a positive impact on patient care, read a wide variety of exam types and experience the cutting edge of AI technologies. Better yet, you get control over what matters most. You can choose where you live, personalize your own reading environment, decide on a schedule that works for you, choose how many hours you want to work and leave unwanted non-clinical duties behind.
Fortunately, teleradiology providers are looking for radiologists from all different backgrounds. From vRad’s perspective, for example, I can tell you that they embrace both radiologists who pursued a fellowship after their residency and those who immediately hit the job market. You could be a perfect fit either way! What vRad wants is smart, responsible radiologists who are focused on quality when interpreting images. General and fellowship-trained radiologists are equally important to the practice’s strength and longevity.
A day in the life
When other radiologists find out I work in teleradiology, they often ask me what the workload is like. Do I still get to practice within my subspecialty? Do I read other exam types as well? Is it a consistent mix of the two?
In my experience, yes, teleradiologists do get to still practice in their own subspecialty. But all of us are also expected to read general exams.
At vRad, for example, every radiologist is expected to read the core studies—think of the general skillset as a core competency—and then any subspecialty studies are like a bonus on top of that foundation. So neuroradiologists do get to read a higher percentage of neuro studies, and musculoskeletal radiologists do get to read more MSK studies, but the amount of time you spend on your subspecialty is going to depend on what’s in the queue at any given time. Subspecialty preference, however, is not so great that generalists don’t also see subspecialty imaging. Generalists will still be exposed to those studies if they choose to, so they can maintain their skills.
Also, one thing I quickly learned with vRad is that as an emergency radiology practice, a lot more time is focused on sophisticated CT imaging than other radiology practices. On average we see twice as many CTs and half as many X-rays as a typical practice.
Teamwork & telehealth
All radiology practices do what they do thanks to a healthy mix of fellowship-trained and general radiologists—and teleradiology practices are no different in that regard.
In fact, one thing that many people don’t realize about teleradiology is that it involves a significant amount of teamwork. If an MSK-trained radiologist is reading a chest CT and they know they are dealing with an interstitial lung disease (ILD), they can consult with a cardiothoracic specialist like myself very easily with the click of a button. “Hey, can you take a look at this ILD case?” Just like that, I can review the exam on my own screen and help that radiologist complete their report. They had 90% of that read taken care of on their own, but I’m able to step in for that final 10% and help make a difference.
vRad often has more than 100 radiologists reading exams at a time. We all come from a variety of different backgrounds, and it helps guarantee that each and every patient is getting the expertise they deserve. That’s the beauty of working with such a strong team—no matter what situation might come up, the right person for the job is always just a click away.
Becoming a practicing radiologist takes years of dedication and hard work. It also requires you to make a lot of big decisions—decisions about your personal life, medical school, your career path and everything in between.
Choosing what to do after completing your residency is one of the biggest decisions of them all. And no matter which path you choose, teleradiology is a smart option that has the potential to take your career in an exciting new direction.
Interested in learning more about teleradiology at vRad? Watch our latest Virtual Open House and hear directly from vRad radiologists who started in teleradiology right after residency or fellowship. WATCH NOW >>