Burned Out? An Expert Explains How to Know and What to Do About It

John C. Hayes; Peter S. Moskowitz, MD


November 29, 2012

In This Article

Factors Contributing to Burnout in Radiology

Medscape: What are the factors that contribute to burnout in radiology?

Dr. Moskowitz: The practice of radiology has rapidly evolved owing to improvements and advances in technology, and those advances have been like a double-edged sword.

Cross-sectional imaging has produced powerful improvements in care and diagnosis. At the same time, the volume of cross-sectional studies being interpreted by radiologists has skyrocketed -- and that is without a significant increase in manpower. Many of these studies have hundreds, if not thousands, of images to look at. So radiologists are sitting in dark rooms under high pressure to read more and more studies, faster and faster.

In addition, with voice recognition systems, not only are radiologists required to interpret and dictate reports on those studies, but also they often must correct and edit those reports. They've taken over the function that used to be performed by transcription personnel.

The result is that there is less time for schmoozing, talking to colleagues, seeking opinions from other colleagues, and interacting with referring physicians. As the days get longer and longer, many radiologists report feeling like they are machines instead of humans. I think that explains why more and more radiologists are fatigued, irritable, and stressed.

Many practices have made income a priority over the balance and satisfaction of their members.

Another factor is money. Many radiology practices have traditionally made income the major priority rather than the balance and life satisfaction of its practitioners or partners. Now, hopefully, that's changing. Just the fact that the RSNA is sponsoring a workshop such as mine, and that there are articles now being published on approaches to burnout and the dangers of burnout, means that many more people in the field are aware of and responding to these challenges. I find that very encouraging.

Medscape: Is uncertainty a factor in their stress?

Dr. Moskowitz: Uncertainty is clearly an issue for everyone in the United States. Our economy is struggling; it's not recovering at a rate that's fast enough for unemployment to come down, which means there's a high unemployment rate that's impacting everyone. It's affecting families, children, and the grown children of radiologists. There is uncertainty about funding and reimbursement for healthcare, and even the direction of healthcare itself. Because of all of these factors, radiology groups are reluctant to expand their business and add partners. That adds to the workload of every radiologist.