Survey: Radiologic technologists staff levels on the rise

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A survey released Monday of nearly 700 facility managers and directors of radiology departments nationwide revealed that staffing levels of radiologic technologists are generally on the rise. The study, which was conducted by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), also showed that vacancy levels at hospital-based radiology departments or facilities have seen a downward trend during the past four years.
           
The drop in vacancies over the past two years was only minimal, ASRT said, but showed significance when compared to staffing levels seen during 2003 and 2004. Upon doing a comparison of the studies over four consecutive years, the results showed a continuing drop in vacancy rates across all specialties.
           
Of all specialties, cardiovascular-interventional technologists had the greatest decrease (6.7 percent) in vacancy rates during the four-year period, followed by the decrease in radiographers (6 percent), and nuclear medicine technologists (5.5 percent). With all of the specialties taken into consideration, the vacancy rates are currently in the single digits with radiographers under 5 percent, ASRT said.

Vacancy rates by specialty
  2003 2004 2005 2006
Radiographers 10.3 7.7 5.4 4.5
CT technologists 8.5 5.3 5.9 5.1
MR technologists 9.0 6.9 7.4 6.2
Mammographers 7.2 6.2 6.2 4.9
Nuclear medicine technologists 10.9 6.9 8.0 5.7
Cardiovascular-interventional technologists 14.6 10.2 8.6 7.9
Sonographers 11.7 9.7 9.1 9.1
Source: ASRT

This study shows a clear reversal within the industry after a shortage of R.T.s earlier in the decade of 18 percent in 2000, according to ASRT survey results during that year.

The study also indicated that only about one-sixth of the respondents reported a decrease in funded full-time R.T. positions at their facilities. “It appears the decreases in vacancy rates have leveled out,” said Richard Harris, PhD, ASRT’s director of research.. “Overall, we’re approaching a stable market. Budgets are higher and vacancy rates are lower.”

For some that are reporting FTE shortages, reasons have included budget declines, decreases in patient demand and increased efficiency of patient processing, requiring fewer R.T.s on the job, ASRT said. Other results:

  • No change was seen over the past two years regarding the degree of ease or difficulty in recruiting R.T.s;
  • There’s been no change in turnover rate since January 2005;
  • Far fewer facilities paid sign-on bonuses in 2006, compared to 2005, for R.T.s in MR, mammography, radiography and CT; and
  • Just 12 to 22 percent of survey participants reported increased wait times for procedures, cancelled procedures, decreased patient satisfaction and increased patient complaints related to work force shortages.           

However, the good news could be short lived. There is some concern about a future shortage due to looming baby boomer retirements. “Baby boomers begin turning 60 this year,” said Sal Martino, ASRT executive vice president and chief academic officer.

Thus, two factors are on a collision course as the overall population ages while we will see the general graying of R.T.s. “The elderly population tends to use more imaging services. As imaging technology gets better, the demand for imaging services will also increase,” said Martino. Meanwhile, he added, “As the overall population ages, the number of R.T.s approaching retirement age also increases.”

Complete survey results are available at www.asrt.org/staffingsurvey2006