6 tips for working with millennials in radiology

By Kate Madden Yee, AuntMinnie.com staff writer

January 19, 2017 -- The millennial generation -- those born between 1980 and 2000 -- is the largest generation since the baby boomers and likely the most educated in history. But when it comes to teaching and working with this group, older radiologists may be baffled as to the best approach, says an article in the January issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

There are ways to minimize generational conflict and maximize workplace harmony, but it requires cultivating an open mind, wrote lead author Dr. Ana Lourenco and colleague Dr. John Cronan, both of Brown University (JACR, January 2017, Vol. 14:1, pp. 92-95).

Dr. Ana Lourenco
Dr. Ana Lourenco from Brown University.

"Although generational difference in educational and workplace interactions may frustrate both younger and older generations, complaining about the differences without trying to understand the source of conflicts is not productive," Lourenco and Cronan wrote. "Learning more about what motivates and is important to our millennial colleagues ... will help us establish mutually satisfying partnerships."

A new generation

Lourenco and Cronan offered six tips to help older radiologists bridge the generational gap with their millennial trainees and colleagues.

1. Provide feedback

Give feedback in real-time, and don't just comment on what the trainee missed while on call -- comment on what the trainee did well.

"Whereas older generations may believe that 'no news is good news' when it comes to feedback, younger trainees interpret silence as negative," the authors wrote. "Taking time to acknowledge a job well done is ... imperative when working with millennials."

2. Get their attention

Millennials have grown up with technology, are used to having easy access to information, and tend to have short attention spans, according to Lourenco and Cronan. As a result, traditional teaching methods such as the attending lecture may not be an effective way to reach this group. Showing the relevance of the information being taught is crucial, as well as using techniques to keep millennials engaged with the material.

"Often a clinical scenario or a missed/quality assurance case presentation will provide an effective 'hook' for the start of the session," they wrote. "In addition, providing a way for the audience to be engaged and interact with the teacher and the material will help maintain attention."

3. Teach communication skills

The millennial generation's communication styles can be quite different than those of older colleagues, as they may not value personal interactions as much as older generations might. This means that training programs need to devote time and resources to teaching communication skills.

"To provide patient-centered care, we need to ensure that our residents and fellows have learned to communicate appropriately with both patients and referring providers," Lourenco and Cronan wrote.

4. Encourage teamwork

Millennials value working in teams, the authors noted. "Creating an environment where one can comfortably seek a colleague's opinion on a challenging case is important both to clinical care and to physician job satisfaction," they wrote. "Newly hired millennials are more likely to find job satisfaction in practices that provide such an environment."

5. Mentor them

Millennials seek and value mentoring, both in training and beyond, the authors wrote. Mentoring offers opportunities for real-time feedback and can improve recruitment and retention of new hires.

"Rather than stockpiling feedback to be delivered during an annual review, it is much more effective to provide feedback in real-time," they wrote. "For millennials especially, this affords them the opportunity to make changes ... and provides supervisors an opportunity to acknowledge when staff has done well."

6. Take work-life balance into account

Because they've grown up during a time when technology makes it possible to work anytime, anywhere, millennials are more focused on getting the work done rather than exactly where or when it gets done, according to Lourenco and Cronan. To retain millennial hires, practices may need to consider offering alternative ways of working, such as staggered shifts, remote reading, or job sharing.

An open mind

The most important skill for older radiologists when dealing with their millennial trainees and colleagues is to keep an open mind, Lourenco told AuntMinnie.com.

"The best thing you can do to facilitate partnerships with this generation is to keep an open mind and try to avoid stereotypes -- like, 'Millennials don't want to put in the sweat equity we have,' " she said. "Millennials will outnumber us in just a few years, and they're going to change the workplace, so we need to stay open and curious."


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