Overworked: Rads prefer fewer hours, earlier retirement

A survey of practicing radiologists showed many are working longer hours than desired and that they expect to retire later than they would prefer, according to a study published in the August issue of Academic Radiology.

If these radiologists had their preferences for work hours and retirement age met, however, there would be an immediate shortage in full-time equivalent (FTE) radiologists that lasted until 2020, explained Andrew K. Moriarity, MD, of the Department of Diagnostic Radiology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and colleagues.

“Our results predict that there will be at least some reduction in the available radiology FTEs by 2016 and that this could be significantly exaggerated and prolonged if practicing radiologists reduced FTE hours worked to their personally desired levels and stopped working when they wanted to retire rather than when they expected to retire,” they wrote.

Results were based on an online multiple-choice survey sent to all members of the American College of Radiology, the Association of University Radiologists, and the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments in March 2011. A total of 2,163 responses were collected.

Using a model that combined the responses with American Medical Association FTE estimates, Moriarity and colleagues pegged the number of FTE radiologists available in 2011 at 26,362, which is in line with previous estimates.

Responses showed a preference for decreased FTE hours worked ranging from a 5 to 14 percent reduction in workload depending on the individual cohort, with younger radiologists and women reporting the greatest desired decreases.

The authors used four scenarios to project available FTE radiologists from 2016 to 2031, and these models predicted an initial FTE availability in 2016 ranging from 21,156 to 24,537. This would represent a shortage compared to currently available FTEs based on a predicted 18 percent increase in demand for radiology services by 2025.

Depending on work rate and retirement preferences, there was a projected increase in FTE radiologists to between 27,753 and 31,435 by 2031.

“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,” wrote Moriarity and colleagues. “Such discussions are important because radiologists report greater workplace satisfaction when retirement age expectations are met.”