Career questions in radiology

The radiology job market has had its ups and downs over the past 20 years. A surplus of workers in the late 1990s turned into a shortage in the 2000s. Now, a recent survey of practicing radiologists finds that many feel overworked and fear they must delay retirement.

Results of the survey, published in the August issue of Academic Radiology, featured responses from more than 2,000 members of the American College of Radiology, the Association of University Radiologists, and the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments.

These radiologists would prefer to cut their hours worked to the tune of 5 to 14 percent, depending on the individual cohort. Younger radiologists and women reported the greatest desired decreases. There was also a widespread sense among radiologists that they expect to retire later than they would prefer.

Looking ahead based on the survey results, there is expected to be 21,156 to 24,537 available full-time equivalent (FTE) radiologists in 2016, which would represent a shortage compared to currently available FTEs.

How does the specialty attract more people? Some have speculated that greater exposure to radiology in medical school makes students more likely to consider a career in radiology, but that theory developed some holes after a study from the American Journal of Roentgenology found that might not necessarily be the case.

A survey of residency program directors at accredited U.S. medical schools found that 76 percent of schools had a dedicated radiology curriculum, and 87 percent also integrated radiology education into other courses throughout all four years.

While there are lots of opportunities for exposure to radiology, that doesn’t mean more students are rushing into the field. Application rates to radiology residency programs were similar across schools, even those that didn’t have integrated radiology education.

Luring more people to the profession is a broad, complicated issue, but Andrew K. Moriarity, MD, of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and colleagues, authors of the study assessing workload preferences, suggested focusing on the small picture of the local practice to make sure current radiologists are happy.

“Practice leaders should regularly survey current radiologists regarding their preferences for hours worked and desired retirement as these may be significantly different than current patterns,” they wrote. “Such discussions are important because radiologists report greater workplace satisfaction when retirement age expectations are met.”

-Evan Godt
Editor -Health Imaging