Review: Diagnostic radiologists at higher risk of burnout

A review co-authored jointly by Dr. Bradley Spieler, Vice Chair of Scholarly Activity and Research at the Department of Radiology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine and Dr. Neil Baum, of Tulane’s Department of Urology reports that burnout affects more health workers than 50%, however diagnostic radiologists are more at risk. A survey of radiology practitioners found that 71 percent of respondents experienced stress due to workplace stressors. The paper focuses on the biological causes and effects of stress and stress, as well as risk factors that can be identified, solutions and a collective response. The paper is available online in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

The rate of burnout among physicians, especially radiologists, is increasing at record levels. It is essential to take an integrated approach to avoid burnout.

Dr. Bradley Spieler, Vice-Chair of Scholarly Research and Activity, Department of Radiology, LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine

Burnout is defined as “exhaustion of physical or emotional power or motivation typically due to prolonged stress or frustration.” It can manifest as both physical and mental fatigue. This issue is now being recognized as a disease and recently, it was provided with an up-to-date procedural terminology (CPT) code that includes a unique diagnostic code for burnout.

The most significant reasons are lack of control and unclear job requirements as well as dysfunctional workplace dynamics and extreme work-related activity. Physical effects that have been documented include more rapid aging of DNA. Doctors’ DNA ages six times faster than that of non-physicians who are in their first year of medical school (PGY-1). Other studies have implicated telomeres. DNA caps that keep the ends of chromosomes in place as well as the plastic ends of shoelaces, also known as aglets as a sign of aging and diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and mental illness. It is also possible that they could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Further studies have revealed a correlation between hours worked and the length of the telomeres.

Several factors affect diagnostic radiologists more than other specialties and significantly increase the risk of burnout. The authors say that radiologists spend most of their time in darkened rooms interpreting imaging studies. Their jobs are mostly sedentary. Prolonged stationary positioning is associated with chronic musculoskeletal pain and resistant strain injuries in radiologists, such as tenosynovitis and low back pain. The high rate of burnout among radiologists is related to the social isolation that is part and parcel of the specialty. Other risk factors to consider include pressure on productivity, technologic tools such as the picture archiving and communications system (PACS) and the electronic medical record, which removed face-to face interactions between referring clinicians and radiologists in clinical practice. Radiologists are also physically isolated as a result of their work. For example they could encounter frequent interruptions during image interpretation. These interruptions to workflow can cause anxiety for the doctor and patient safety issues. The situation has only become worse due to the pandemic.

Spieler says, “Radiology leadership needs to address burnout like it is an epidemic in public health.”

Solutions include increased engagement and support for co-workers, dedicated reading room assistants, eliminating distractions, optimizing ergonomics and mindfulness techniques.

The Well-Being Index, an anonymous online self-assessment tool which can be used to determine the signs of burnout, screen for it, and prevent burnout, is one of the resources. Other resources include the American College of Radiology’s Well Being Program, and the Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience. A table was made available by the authors.

The authors conclude that radiologists need to avoid burnout to ensure high physician satisfaction as well as optimal care delivery and positive outcomes for patients.

Journal reference:

B. Spieler and N. Baum (2021). Burnout A Mindful Framework for Radiologists. Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

Related Articles