Burnout common among private-practice radiologist leaders

2021 09 24 22 14 2812 Doctor Burnout Outdoors 400

One out of three radiologist leaders in private practices are experiencing burnout, often because of difficulties in managing stress, according to research published online August 24 in Clinical Imaging.

After surveying 40 radiologist leaders from the Strategic Radiology coalition of private practices, researchers led by Dr. Jay Parikh from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center determined that 33% were burned out. In addition, the respondents' self-perceived ability to manage stress was the only factor significantly associated with burnout.

"Practice leaders experiencing burnout may therefore benefit from interventions designed to specifically address stress management, leveraging positive psychology, and coaching," they wrote.

Burnout is a pervasive problem in healthcare, and it also occurs at high levels in radiology. However, various strategies designed to combat burnout have had mixed results.

In an effort to assess the prevalence and demographic factors associated with both fulfillment and burnout among private-practice radiologist leaders, Parikh and colleagues from MD Anderson and Strategic Radiology sent surveys to two designated leaders at 30 private radiology practices. They received 40 responses. Using the Stanford Professional Fulfillment Index, the researchers then calculated fulfillment and burnout scores from the responses.

The investigators found an overall professional fulfillment rate of 43% and an overall burnout rate of 33%. The inverse correlation (r = -0.42) between professional fulfillment and burnout was statistically significant (p = 0.007).

There was no correlation between professional fulfillment or burnout with variables such as age, gender, ethnicity, practice geography, or practice size. However, radiologists who disagreed that they managed stress better than others in their practice were the most likely to experience burnout, according to the researchers.

The study authors also found that private practices varied significantly in the strategies they were using to address burnout of radiology practice leaders and their radiologists. Most practice leaders reported that their practice contracted nonphysician administrative leadership to help manage their practices and also offered part-time clinical work as well as participation in voting for partners who work 70% or less in their practice.

"Multiple factors likely contribute towards this variability [in strategies to address burnout], including individual group culture, leadership, support staff available resources, expense, and time," the authors wrote. "Further research is needed overall to define best practices and to help guide individual radiology practices to promote wellness of radiology practice leaders."

Regarding family medical leave, all respondents indicated that the clinical shifts were covered by other radiologists. However, 12 (30%) of the leaders did not know or were unsure if their practices offered family medical leave. Of the 28 leaders who were aware of their practices' family medical leave policies, 19 reported that their practices offered partial or complete compensation for family medical leave. And 14 (50%) allowed more than 10 weeks of family medical leave.

However, only a minority of practice leaders reported lactational facilities, formation of a wellness committee, meditation, or financial assistance for burned-out radiologists, according to the researchers.

"Therefore, the authors observe that a potential opportunity for practice leaders to promote their own wellness, as well as the radiologists within their practice, would be to revisit their group's [family medical leave] policies with their group members periodically for self-education, to raise awareness in all group members, and to explore possible opportunities to update the benefits provided by the group policies," they wrote.

The authors also noted that only one of the 40 respondents was female, a result that was consistent with a 2016 review of academic chairs that also found a low representation of female leaders. To increase the pipeline for future female private practice leaders, the researchers suggested strategies such as mitigating unconscious bias in recruitment and hiring, mentorship of private practice skills, encouragement of formal leadership training, and sponsorship.

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