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Where Does Radiology Burnout Come From? And How Can We Stop it?

Working on the weekends has become the norm for many physicians, and burnout rates have skyrocketed across many specialties. For radiologists, increased expectations and reimbursement policies are just a few of the main stressors that contribute to burnout. A new article published in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology analyzes the origins of burnout, and identifies ways to prevent it from taking hold.

The article centers around two fictionalized burnout situations. The first involves a radiologist called “Steve,” who used to be excited about work, until he was asked to head up a committee that didn’t respect his ideas. He felt like he was being ignored by the members, which left him feeling useless. According to the authors, poor communication was at the root of Steve’s problem. “Poor communication served to promote a diminished sense of accomplishment in a physician initially engaged and productive, demonstrating how lack of leadership training may contribute to physician burnout while depicting burnout as a fluid state, determined to a large degree by external forces,” wrote lead author Nicole Restauri, MD, assistant professor in radiology at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine. The authors urge supervisors to schedule feedback and training for radiologists in order to create a work environment that promotes transparency and active communication.

The second vignette focuses on “John,” a radiologist who left his small practice where staff communicated regularly to work in an academic institution — where he seldom spoke with his colleagues. The lack of communication left John feeling stressed and isolated. “Increasing isolation played a significant role in developing symptoms of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization as demonstrated by the physician in case vignette 2,” the authors wrote. Bureaucratic responsibilities might be contributing to feelings of isolation, explain the researchers. They recommend reducing clerical responsibilities, and spending more time in multidisciplinary group work.

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