Take care managing radiologists of different generations

2017 01 12 16 12 15 995 Julius Barry 400

Not every radiologist fits the stereotype for his or her generation, but some generational stereotypes ring true. On the whole, the baby boomers, Generation X, and the millennials each perform better and worse in certain areas of the radiology workforce and have their own particular needs. When you work with these individuals, it is important to keep this in mind. Sometimes, in fact, we need to change the way we work to accommodate these differences. So today, I would like to go through some of the areas where radiologist generations differ, arranged by topic. I hope you enjoy it!

PACS and social media

Baby boomers: These folks tend to be less comfortable with PACS system changes. So, beware the PACS upgrade! It can wreak havoc on their lives. Social media can be somewhat foreign to these radiologists; in fact, many of them do not have Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram accounts. Therefore, sending out messages via these media may be a waste of your time.

Dr. Barry Julius of RadsResident.com.Dr. Barry Julius of RadsResident.com.

Generation X: For these radiologists, PACS utility issues tend to be a mixed bag. Some of the less tech-savvy radiologists are similar to the baby boomers, while others are more adept with PACS systems. On the other hand, social media outlets are generally much more native to the Generation X radiologists, who show broader and more frequent use. Although not all of these radiologists use social media, they are much more likely to be comfortable with these channels.

Millennials: On the whole, these radiologists cope well with PACS updates and changes, as long as the network runs correctly. Their knowledge of technology enables them to learn quickly and grasp the most efficient ways to learn PACS. Social media is not just a tool for many of these individuals -- it can be a way of life. Their online persona can become just as important as their offline interactions. They tend to engross themselves in the online world.

Barium work/general x-rays

Baby boomers: This group of individuals has, by far, the most expansive repertoire of experience with both barium work and plain films. Because these procedures were originally the mainstay of radiology, baby boomers oftentimes will pick things up that their more junior colleagues will miss. They can work wonders with barium and grasp the nuances of a good barium examination.

Generation X: Although they're not as seasoned as baby boomers, they can read a plain film fairly well and are comfortable with most barium work. During residency, they had lots of experience with films and barium slinging.

Millennials: Because they spent a lot more time with CT and MRI than plain film during residency, overall, they are less comfortable with plain-film interpretation. As residents, experience in hardcore barium studies such as barium enemas can be minimal. So, performance and interpretation of these studies can be a bit more challenging.


Baby boomers: It is much less likely for baby boomers to feel comfortable in this modality, as any training was likely accomplished after their residency. Most baby boomers will avoid MRI if possible.

Generation X: Plus or minus, depending on their experiences during residency: Some feel very comfortable with general MRI work and others less so.

Millennials: Most millennials are comfortable performing nothing but MRI, since the modality has become bread-and-butter radiology and is just as common as all the other modalities out there. I would certainly put a lot of faith in their good reads!

Vacation time

Baby boomers: This generation believes in the adage "live to work." Overall, they tend to take less vacation than they're given (although they get more vacation than the rest of the generations!).

Generation X: Their work ethic is closer to that of the baby boomers than the millennials, though they can straddle both sides. Vacation time is important, and they take full advantage of their time off the job.

Millennials: Everyone needs to work around the millennials' schedules. Their motto is "work to live, not live to work." They like flexibility and will do whatever they can to get to the lifestyle they want. These radiologists will take each and every vacation day a practice gives them. They do not spare a moment they can use to bolster their lifestyle.


Baby boomers: For the most part, these radiologists sit on a large nest egg, having worked through radiology during its most lucrative years. Debt load tends to be nonexistent. They have the most flexibility and can leave the workforce whenever they want. In fact, many of these radiologists perform their job solely for their love for the specialty.

Generation X: A majority of these radiologists have paid off their debts and have done fairly well in their specialty. Money is still important to these folks because they do not yet have enough to retire. But they have good jobs and will do well overall because they have been working during the "good years."

Millennials: Severe student debt weighs down these radiologists and can limit their opportunities to places and jobs that this generation does not want and that they believe may run counter to their ideal lifestyle philosophy. These radiologists also started working in the field during radiology's lean years, and they are more likely to have had less opportunity to make money. Hence, there is some bitterness when it comes to discussing the topic of money!

Interpersonal relationships

Baby boomers: Overall, this group develops strong interpersonal relationships with colleagues and staff. They never had the opportunity to rely on social media or other forms of technological communication, so they deal well with others. In addition, they have the least need for external approval.

Generation X: These radiologists probably have more in common with the baby boomers than the millennials, since they grew up in a world without social media. They were allowed to fail just like the baby boomers, but were more protected than them. They also develop strong interpersonal relationships with their colleagues.

Millennials: Because many of these folks were not allowed to fail growing up, they need to be outwardly appreciated by their colleagues much more than the other generations. They spend a lot of time on their mobile devices garnering relationships with others. Because online life can be just as important as their offline persona, some can seem outwardly unfriendly because of the time they spend on their devices.

Teaching expectations

Baby boomers: They love a great lecturer and taking cases. After a teaching episode is completed, the baby boomer also will do his or her own research and read about the topic to reinforce learning. On the whole, baby boomers do not care as much for electronic media, but some will use it. Old-fashioned books instead of e-books work better.

Generation X: The typical Gen Xer fits somewhere between the baby boomer and the millennial. They will do their own research and do not expect the lecturer to tell them everything they need to know, but they also understand the practicalities of e-books and electronic resources.

Millennials: Because millennials traditionally have been spoon-fed information in lectures, they expect everything to be spelled out for them when they are taught. Overall, they expect the teacher to know everything about a topic and to point them toward all the resources they need. Most millennials use e-books exclusively and will utilize electronic media to reinforce all learning.


I repeat: "These stereotypes certainly do not apply to all radiologists out there!" However, I think there is an overall tendency for individuals of each generation to fit some of the stereotypes. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each generation allows us to schedule accordingly, allocate appropriate resources, and understand what each generation needs. For instance, because the millennial tends to have a higher debt load, allow for more moonlighting opportunities or extra work. Or, be sure to incorporate extra training with new PACS system upgrades for the baby boomer.

Bottom line -- it pays to understand each generation!

Dr. Barry Julius, founder and chief editor of RadsResident.com, has been an associate radiology residency director at Saint Barnabas Medical Center since 2009. RadsResident.com is designed to be a credible, reliable, and informative site dedicated to radiology residents, students, program directors, and physicians interested in other radiology residency topics, with an emphasis on day-to-day residency information that is not covered on most educational sites. Topics include surviving a radiology residency, residency learning materials/books, financial tips, and jobs.

The comments and observations expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AuntMinnie.com.

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