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Putting an End to Radiologist Burnout Means Getting Rid of Compliance Culture

The culture of compliance and high burnout rates go hand in hand in radiology. Richard Gunderman, MD, the vice chairman of Indiana University’s radiology department warned attendees at this year’s Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) conference about how the drive to comply with facility policies can result in exhausting feelings of burnout.

Gunderman’s theory on burnout derives from definitions created by industrial efficiency experts Frederick Winslow Taylor, Henry Ford and Alfred Sloan. He explains that burnout has three roots: exhaustion (“feeling worn out”), depersonalization (“sensing you could be readily replaced”), and lack of efficacy (“doubting you’re contributing anything meaningful”).

In order to overcome these burnout concerns, Gunderman recommends that radiologists explore ways that they can make the profession personally rewarding and meaningful. “Whom do we serve—the people watching the dashboards or the people for whom the dashboards exist in the first place, namely our patients and our communities?” he said. “We need to think at work not just about what we are trying to do, or what we are being held accountable for doing, but in fact what we are striving to become.”

To break free from the pressures of compliance, Gunderman suggests implementing “cultures of conversation.” He references the film “My Dinner With Andre” as an example where the culture of conversation, or the basic act of talking and listening, is effective and productive.

He considers workers of all levels to be responsible for eliminating burnout and reversing the culture of compliance. “There are some things we need to do at a corporate level to enable our people to perform at their best, but there is a great deal that our people need to do to perform at their best that only they can know,” he said.

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