Larger radiology practices face more burnout, but are they prepared?

Burnout continues to plague radiology, with more than 50% of practice leaders labeling it as a “very significant problem” in a new survey published by the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

That figure varied greatly depending on practice size; 37% of respondents who led a practice of five or fewer radiologists cited burnout as a serious problem compared to 71% among practices with 50 radiologists or more.

A greater proportion of larger practice leaders did report having mechanisms to deal with their burnout, however. In those with more than 50 radiologists, 34% of respondents had ways to deal with burnout compared to only 3% of practices with five readers or fewer. This, however, did not impact their effectiveness with addressing such burnout, Jay R. Parikh, MD, with University MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Department of Radiology in Houston, and colleagues noted.

“The higher rate of practice-level mechanisms to assess burnout in larger practices may reflect higher awareness of this issue among practice leadership; there continues to be a need for practice-level strategies to mitigate it,” Parikh et al. wrote. “Some of the risk factors for burnout previously identified by the ACR HR Commission, including lack of control, isolation, and reduced autonomy, may potentially increase with larger practice size and geographic coverage, suggesting a continued need for improvement in this arena across practice size.”

The study yielded a response rate of 23% or 367 practice group leaders. The ratio represented 30% of the more than 33,600 practicing radiologists in the U.S.

Other notable results included the following:

  • Twenty-two percent of practice leaders cited burnout as a “significant” problem.
  • More than 70% reported that stress form workplace factors “very significantly” affected the wellness of their employees; these were statistically significant by region, practice size and practice type.
  • Of all responses, 36% said that personal or social stress factors “very significantly” impacted employee wellness.
  • Overall, 19% of practice leaders said they had mechanisms to address burnout, with 21% reporting “very effective mechanisms” to address the issue.

Parikh and colleagues cited a few limitations of their study, including their surveying of practice leaders rather than practicing radiologists themselves, a low response rate and a lack of generalizability to all practices. But, they noted, the results “likely underestimate” just how high the rates of burnout are among the specialty.