Published August 1, 2022
Jonathan Kruskal, MD, PhD
Melvin E. Clouse Professor of Radiology, Harvard Medical School
Chair, Department of Radiology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lea Azour, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology, NYU Grossman School of Medicine
Director of Wellness, Department of Radiology
Jonathan Goldin, MD, PhD
Professor of Radiology, Medicine, and Biomedical Physics, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine
Executive Vice Chairman, Department of Radiological Sciences, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine
The epidemic of stress and burnout among physicians in our imaging field continues unabated, with many commitments, remedies, websites, apps, financial resources, meetings, meals, committees, retreats, articles, and other tactics directed at mitigating the expanding repertoire of undesirable, harmful, and even tragic consequences. The constellation of recognized detractors contributing to our widespread lack of wellness and professional fulfillment continues to grow, and will do so, until an effective and collective strategy is implemented.
Mitigation tactics have been tried—improving practice efficiency amid amassing volumes, personal wellness invocations in times of increased isolation, and efforts to cultivate individual and even practice resilience. Many of these have been Band-Aid attempts to right perceived wrongs, to keep up with current trends, or to respond to newly recognized symptoms. These efforts have had short-term impacts, at best.
There have been broad-based recommendations for addressing the epidemic of languishing, which struck unexpectedly, followed by post-traumatic recovery efforts, which were never fully understood; together, we’ve raised our voices at the so-called moral insults and associate injuries repeatedly cast in our direction.
One tactic after another. One mole whacked to unearth another. One new personal solution. One new app. And nothing seems to have improved. Our trend lines are heading downwards.
Moving the Wellness Dial?
Most certainly, we have started to move the radiology wellness dial—we have discovered what works and what doesn’t, we have started to recognize the spectrum of manifestations of stress, we have started to explore different personal and practice approaches to wellness, we have started to acknowledge the impact of effective leadership, communities and connections, of having voices heard, of removing the many pebbles from our shoes, and we have started to speak louder and louder about the need for a more organized approach. We have commenced our wellness journey.
There is no better time than now to define where we want to go, how to get there, and how to remove current and future obstacles along the way.
Our efforts have been diverse and well-intended: various manners of resilience-building have been explored, personal wellness strategies were introduced, organizational contributors were recognized, the value of high-functioning teams extolled, as was understanding of the complex preferences of our wonderful multicultural and multigenerational team members. Practices slowly started listening to the voices of their team members. Listening, yet not quite hearing. Conversations slowly started transforming from burnout to wellness, to professional fulfillment, and voices were now being listened to and heard.
Yet the stress and symptoms of emotional exhaustion, detachment, disengagement, and disillusionment persisted, and a great resignation commenced. New challenges emerged, which have become our contemporary opportunities: supporting and sustaining remote teams and flexible work patterns, a staffing challenge like few can recall, rethinking productivity and compensation models, calls for greater transparency, wellness-driving compensation plans and reading environments, and reimagining what a day’s work should look like. The Great Resignation inspired the Great Exploration and Reshuffling, and now the Great Renegotiation—of why and how we work.
So, where does that leave us today? For the past several years, we have responded to the epidemic of burnout by changing the conversation to a more positive focus on wellness, yet our many very well-intended efforts have been largely tactical, rather than strategic.
We have been playing wellness whack-a-mole by responding with tactics to each newly recognized symptom or contributor, rather than thinking strategically.
It’s not too late. As a medical subspecialty, we have the opportunity to change that now, and must. We certainly have the skilled team members, advocates, resources, voices, passions, and energy to do that, and we need to start now. Together, we can and must build a blueprint for wellness that will guide and sustain our efforts towards improved wellness.
How do we do this? To expand on the oft quoted ice-skating analogy relating to the renowned hockey player Wayne Gretzky, we need to convene all voices of the House of Radiology to better understand the challenges, impacts and contributors, to define where our proverbial puck will be, and then to define a path that will guide us to meet that puck.
This April, please join us in Honolulu, Hawaii for the ARRS Radiology Wellness Summit during the 2023 ARRS Annual Meeting, where all of these will be addressed.
We need to hear your voice; we want to hear your voice.
What Will the ARRS Radiology Wellness Summit in Hawaii Address?
There are moral, ethical, and business imperatives that should drive wellness, and we will explore what strategies are working and which are not. How do we design workflow for wellness, rethink productivity metrics, and explore shift-based comp plans? What does a new day’s work look like for a radiologist? How can one hop off and stay off the hamster wheel that many workplaces have become? What might your AI efficiency wish list look like? What do your wellness numbers and trends reveal? Do you know your current numbers? What are you measuring?
While one might need to measure in order to manage, to quote Albert Einstein, “not all that counts can be counted, and not all that is counted, counts.” Collectively, we have a lot to talk about.
How do we go about stemming the tide of the Great Resignation, or can we, or should we? What are you doing to show appreciation to your faculty who might feel undervalued? What does your peer support program look like? How are you sustaining your talented multigenerational team through different career and life stages? Is your communication strategy effective? How are you introducing appreciative enquiry and positive psychology into your practice? What is your equivalent of a wellness booster clinic, and what are you doing to rediscover the joy and meaning that first led you into radiology? Have you considered coaching, storytelling, micropractices, mindfulness, music, or art? Is your team functioning like Ted Lasso is the coach? How did you train your Chief Wellness Officer and your wellness change agents?
Our inaugural ARRS Radiology Wellness Summit will bring together radiologists across subspecialties and practices to address the many contemporary issues that are top of mind in our postpandemic terrain, with the goal of defining a wellness roadmap that will guide our House of Radiology forward to better navigate the anticipated stormy seas ahead. Together, we plan to transform from a tactic-driven approach to one that is thoughtful, intentional, and strategic. We hope you’ll join us in Honolulu this April for the undertaking. We want your imprint in this timely, necessary, and important effort.
The opinions expressed in InPractice magazine are those of the author(s); they do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or position of the editors, reviewers, or publisher.