Radiologists aren’t mentoring residents, and its pushing them away from the specialty

Over the past 10 years, there’s been a steady decline in the number of residents who have opted for a career in radiology. And new research suggests the specialty is going to have to do some work to reverse this downward trend.

A group of Canadian doctors recently surveyed resident physicians at their hospital to determine how students felt about radiology and what specifically may be holding them back from pursuing imaging. The results—shared Feb. 20 in Academic Radiology—prove that residents have a number of concerns regarding the specialty’s future and, in many cases, haven’t had enough interaction with imaging staff or mentors to pursue radiology as a career.

For example, nonradiology residents were put off by their perceived lack of patient contact and dark work environment. While 20% of trainees actually considered radiology, more than half said they didn’t have adequate mentorship. The field needs to adapt in light of these findings, said Darya Kurowecki, MD, with McMaster Hospital’s diagnostic imaging department, and colleagues.

“Given the importance of these factors in attracting trainees to radiology, greater emphasis on medical student mentorship and teaching should be made a priority in radiology departments,” said Kurowecki et al., who added that radiology mentors are becoming increasingly sparse as undergraduate education continues to spend less time teaching imaging.

To arrive at their conclusions, the authors gathered survey responses from 152 resident physicians (20 radiology and 132 nonradiology). Participants were presented with multiple statements and asked to rate their level of agreement on a five-point scale.

They found that regardless of the specialty, positive clinical and mentoring experiences significantly impacted which career residents would choose. These were two of the top three factors that attracted resident physicians to radiology, findings similar to those reported in related studies, the authors noted.

Part of the survey also questioned trainees on how they felt about technology, and AI’s potential impact on radiology. In this regard, senior trainees more often disagreed that tech would replace imaging experts, compared to first-year students. But the latter reported higher concerns will a technological takeover, further highlighting the need for mentorship, the authors wrote.

“Given the key role of mentorship in radiology and the importance of radiologists as a source of information for medical students about AI, it is essential that radiology staff and residents become proactive in providing medical trainees with accurate and positive information regarding the role of AI in radiology and reinforce the exciting opportunities and growth in the field in the coming years.”

The study was limited by its low response rate and potential response bias—as all research is, the authors noted—but did incorporate a good representation of Canadian residency programs and training levels, making the results more generalizable.