Burnout crushing radiologists’ job fulfillment, with one-third intending to leave their organization

Burnout remains a significant problem among radiologists. And its effects are taking a heavy toll, crushing professional fulfillment and pushing many to seriously consider leaving their institution.

That’s according to a new cross-sectional wellness study of more than 450 imaging providers shared Wednesday in JACR. Nearly one-third of academic medical center rads are burned out, with women particularly suffering compared to men.

Approximately half of radiologists said the stress is impairing their sleep, and one-third are considering leaving their organization within two years.

The findings are among the first to quantify these burnout-associated side effects, and paint a bleak picture of the specialty that many consider as lifestyle-friendly, the authors explained.

“Radiology is often considered one of the medical specialties offering better quality of life, and radiology’s reputation for reduced work-life conflict would suggest that burnout scores might be relatively lower for radiologists than for other physicians,” Mikhail C.S.S. Higgins, MD, MPH, a radiologist at Boston Medical Center, and colleagues added. “Yet, available data do not support this conclusion.”

For their study, Higgins et al. sent voluntary anonymous surveys to radiologists across 11 academic medical organizations taking part in a wellness consortium between January 2017 and September 2018. Responses were measured using validated professional indices. The final group consisted of 456 faculty radiologists, 171 of whom were women.

Additional key findings from the survey showed:

  • An overall burnout prevalence of 37.4%, with female rads reporting higher levels compared to men (44% vs. 31%).
  • Women also reported lower professional fulfillment (30%) compared to male rads (42%). At the same time, fewer intended to leave their institution (26%) compared to their male peers (38%).
  • Logistic regression found female providers’ odds of being burned out are 1.73-times higher compared to their male peers. The former, however, are 58% less likely to report their intention to leave.
  • Feeling fulfilled at work decreased the odds of burnout by 83%, the authors reported.
  • The odds of sleep-related impairment are 6.3 times higher in burned-out providers.

Higgins and co-authors did note 91% of female radiologists said they would recommend their field to others, which may be due to the majority (87%) having direct contact with patients at their practice, the authors hypothesized. More research will be needed to pin down the disparity between men and women, however.

Read the entire study shared May 5 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

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