Go to school. Work. Retire. It’s the standard cycle of a career. For radiologists, technologists and radiology administrators, however, while the beats may be familiar, the melody is ever-changing. A new focus on value is altering practice for some mid-career, while those just starting out are facing a different job landscape than previous generations. Increasingly, those nearing retirement are having to push back the finish line. Whether you’re finishing school or already have many years on the job, here’s what the experts are saying about having a successful career in imaging.
The Starting Line
The radiology job market has had its ups and downs over the past two decades. In the late 1990s, there was talk of a surplus of workers, though a combination of economic factors quickly reversed that trend, resulting in a shortage by the early 2000s.
Now, the script has flipped again. About 1,000 radiologists enter the job market each year, but fewer radiologists are retiring.
“When you have more coming in and less going out, that’s going to be like a balloon filling up,” says Sanjay Jain, MD, MBA, founder of RadXperts in Washington, D.C., and a regular speaker on issues in healthcare. Due to the recession and a series of sharp reimbursement cuts, older radiologists are delaying retirement, making the job market tighter for those starting out now as opposed to periods when the number of new radiologists more evenly matched retirees.
Jain says things are getting better, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to take steps to position yourself for success as early as possible. Last year, the American College of Radiology (ACR) Task Force on Medical Student Education in Radiology teamed with the Alliance of Medical Student Educators in Radiology (AMSER) to offer recommendations to improve medical student radiology education. Their suggestions were based on surveys sent to medical school deans and radiology department chairs and were published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.
Ultimately, the ACR-AMSER made six recommendations:
- Radiologists should acknowledge the expansion of expectations surrounding medical imaging education. Exposure to medical imaging education taught by radiologists should be implemented and increased at every chance.
- Medical school leaders must identify radiologists as the “go to” faculty members for medical imaging teaching. This can be achieved by lobbying for fundamental medical imaging concepts to be taught by radiologists, identifying educational opportunities for medical students to directly observe radiologists’ role in patient care and considering utilization of social media and points of student access beyond the realm of formal medical school curricula.
- Shift medical imaging education earlier in medical school curriculum. Students exposed to radiology in their preclinical curricula are less likely to hold negative stereotypes about the profession, so radiologists should be aggressively promoted as integral to every anatomy course. Additional preclinical courses in which imaging is used or could be integrated should also be identified. The creation of a radiology interest group for junior students may be helpful, as well as offering increased availability of digital imaging resources.
- Radiologists should offer a uniform message and experience at all institutions. Integrated medical imaging training across all four years of curriculum and a nationally recognized core imaging curriculum—with didactic and digital interactive materials and easy access—should be adopted. A required radiology-led medical imaging clerkship should be instituted in the third year of schooling. Direct patient contact should be emphasized.
- Adopt standardized measures of student competency in medical imaging. ACR-AMSER’s survey revealed a need for standardized assessment tools, which may be acquired by supporting the testing of students on basic principles and concepts using nationally available resources.
- Medical student education should be a top priority for radiology chairs. Lack of clinical faculty time and department cost affects implementation of more comprehensive radiology education programming. To avoid this, department chairs should be encouraged to develop and support an education track for faculty promotion within their programs. Faculty membership in professional organizations that promote educational material development and collaboration should also be supported.
Another factor for educational institutions