9 ways to be a more effective radiologist

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Most of us would like to be more effective in our work, and radiologists are no exception. So what are some habits to develop in order to achieve this? There are nine to keep in mind, and although they may not be easy, they are simple, according to a new article in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

In 1989, Stephen Covey suggested seven habits of highly effective people in his book of the same name -- later adding one more, wrote the group led by Dr. Timothy Alves of the University of Michigan. In their article, Alves and colleagues applied these eight habits specifically to radiology, adding a ninth -- gratitude -- to support the previous habits (Curr Probl Diagn Radiol, July-August 2018, Vol. 47:4, pp. 203-205).

"In radiology, our [goals include] providing excellent clinical care, having a successful practice, teaching effectively, advancing scientific knowledge, and finding meaning in one's work," the group wrote. "[We] tackle [Covey's] habits one by one, with special emphasis on how they relate to the life of a radiologist."

1. Take action

Rather than reacting to problems, anticipate them, the authors wrote. Create daily and weekly schedules, preview procedural cases the day before, and regularly review department systems to avoid "near misses." Proactive engagement serves the field of radiology and patients.

"Often we are in a reactive state, bouncing from urgent task to urgent task," they wrote. "[The] idea of acting with purpose, rather than taking a defensive reactionary stance, sets the tone."

2. Keep the big picture in mind

Set both short- and long-term goals and monitor progress, Alves and colleagues advised.

"It can be helpful to divide goals into different facets of one's life ... and create short, medium, and long-term goals," the group wrote. "Writing these goals down and having a system to periodically track and review them ... can serve as a constant reminder of what one hopes to accomplish, and why."

3. Prioritize

Learn to prioritize what is actually most important, rather than what appears to be most urgent.

"It is easy for much of our time to be wasted on tasks which are urgent but unimportant -- many emails, phone calls, and other interruptions," the group wrote. "Urgent and important tasks often need to come first, but it is most effective to spend the bulk of our time on important but nonurgent tasks."

4. Take a 'win-win' mindset

"[Life] is not a zero-sum game," according to the authors. "Adopting a win-win attitude can be particularly helpful in quality improvement projects when trying to get 'buy-in' from multiple groups of stakeholders or when proposing a change in the call or rotation schedule with colleagues."

5. Try to understand

Trying to understand and value the perspective of others goes a long way toward establishing a collegial work environment, they noted. For example, in response to requests from the emergency department to improve reading turnaround time, understanding the reasons for the request can help radiologists more effectively address the issue.

"Seeking to understand the other first, and checking in with them to be sure we have it right ... can go a long way toward increasing mutual understanding and mutually beneficial relationships," the team wrote.

6. Seek synergy

Create an environment of creative cooperation, recognizing that individual contributions are part of the successful functioning of the whole team.

"When working together as a team, we can achieve results we could never reach working independently," Alves and colleagues wrote.

7. Persevere

Becoming more effective is a process, not an event, they noted. Keep sharp by maintaining clinical skills with continuing education, interdisciplinary conferences, leadership courses, and seeking and offering mentorship.

"Blades dull and rust over time, as do our skills," the team wrote. "By periodically 'sharpening the saw,' we can stay ... effective."

8. Speak up

Find your voice and encourage others to find theirs, Alves and colleagues urged.

"What is your voice as a radiologist? Is it being a practice leader? An outstanding clinician? A quality and safety expert? Teacher? Researcher? Knowing and nurturing one's voice taps into the energy and excitement felt while learning, growing, and contributing, and helping others do the same," they wrote.

9. Foster gratitude

"When cases are piling up and the phone is ringing off the hook, how much better could your day be if you took a moment to express and really feel gratitude," the team wrote. "Studies have shown that simply writing down three things you are grateful for two to three times a week can significantly affect one's happiness and well-being."

Increasingly effective

Developing these habits can go a long way toward becoming a more effective radiologist, Alves and colleagues concluded.

"[Consistently] incorporating [these principles] into our everyday lives can pay big dividends for our patients, colleagues, and families," they wrote.

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