Getting the Bigger Picture of Radiologist Burnout

Does physician care go hand-in-hand with patient care? We know it does — when a healthcare practitioner faces these issues, so do their patients.

In our last post on mental health for healthcare workers, we addressed how physician burnout can have adverse effects on patient care. Radiologist burnout has previously been looked at as a whole, but Dr. Felix Chew of the University of Washington conducted a study with his colleagues on one specific radiologist subgroup: musculoskeletal radiologists. This study breaks down burnout into several categories.

Study Groups

By conducting this study they were able to find that the number of radiologists experiencing burnout was greater than previously thought; nearly 80 percent of musculoskeletal radiologists were found to have experienced it. In the article Radiologist burnout: Worse than we thought?, the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) is reviewed.

MBI defines burnout as a job-related psychological syndrome. The article goes to explain that these psychological effects are broken into three categories: Emotional Exhaustion, Depersonalization, and Personal Accomplishment.

The Results

Using MBI as a resource Dr. Chew and his team invited 1,190 members of the Society of Skeletal Radiology to take an anonymous survey. Four hundred and thirty-three participated (79.2 percent male, 20.8 percent female). Eighty percent of those participated in the survey experienced at least one of the three aspects of burnout, 52 percent reporting signs in two, 22 percent in all three.

In this study, there were no distinct differences in the results between men and women. What was surprising was that burnout was discovered to be worse in those in private practice than those in academic practice. 86.2 percent of musculoskeletal radiologists reported signs of burnout in private practice.

The findings have Dr. Chew believing the presence of students and trainees who help support the workload in academic practices and from my point of view more interaction with people period.

Positive findings from this report also were that burnout seems to lessen over time. Looks like it takes some time to break in the “sea legs”!

How to Combat Radiologist Burnout

With seeing how radiologist burnout could change drastically from subgroup to subgroup, it would be interesting to do more surveys for multiple subgroups, as well as for facilities to perform a “Risk Management” of sorts. How can you improve your work environment to help improve the radiologist’s mental and emotional state?

  1. Encourage social interaction

  2. Reading room exercise equipment

  3. Standing desks

  4. Encourage periodic 10-minute breaks

Patient care is key, but you can’t have successful patient care without appropriate physician care. As someone who has seen the results of a false radiology report, I can say with confidence that we must be proactive!

If you are suicidal and need emergency help, call 911 immediately or 1-800-273-8255 if in the United States. If you are in another country, find a 24/7 hotline at

This article was written by Allie Robinson, a business policy analyst with Novarad. This post was originally published in January 2017 and has since been updated.

#physicianburnout #burnout #mentalhealth #healthcareworkers #privatepractice #PATIENTCENTRIC #patientcare #stress #radiology #falsereadings #radiologistburnout #risemanagement

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