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What the Marine Corps Can Teach Radiologists About Workplace Stress

Radiologists who suffer from burnout, feel overworked, or struggle with heightened levels of responsibility should turn to stress management tactics practiced by the U.S. Marine Corps.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, the U.S. Marine Corps has a comprehensive stress-identifying protocol that can used to prevent disastrous repercussions to unmitigated stress, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, rage, nightmares, and insomnia.

The authors from Indiana University’s Department of Radiology explain that the U.S. Marine Corps’ response to stress can be applied to signs and symptoms of physician burnout. Taking a cue from the U.S. Marine Corps, the researchers write that administrators must establish a work culture where work-related stress is detected, assessed, and treated. In order to successfully cultivate this kind of environment, radiology residents and fellows must be taught how to strategically and realistically manage stress and responsibilities. According to the authors, some of these methods include, “escalating expectations for case complexity and volumes, increasing clinical independence in on-call duties, and graded responsibility for discussing and responding to errors.”

The authors highlight the U.S. Marine Corps leadership approach as one that encourages productivity yet is also responsive to signs of stress. The U.S. Marine Corps use a color-coded stress model that helps leaders pinpoint someone’s stress levels. They mention that leaders should be aware if their colleague is suffering from a panic disorder, alcohol abuse, or serious depression, as these issues can lead to unexpected aggression.

In order to implement an effective stress management model, department leaders should work to eliminate the fear that “admitting difficulties will result in career damage.” Radiologists, residents, and fellows shouldn’t feel like they have to work beyond their physical and emotional capacities in order to help patients. The authors recommend that physicians should be taking more regular breaks or take advantage of paid time off.

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