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Addressing burnout among mid-career radiologists at RSNA

by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | December 13, 2021
Business Affairs X-Ray
From the March 2022 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


Such feelings are normal — and a warning, as work complacency can lead to neglect and patient harm, known as disappointment syndrome. This manifests in feelings that a professional is letting people down and not living up to expectations. It can, Brown said, cause radiologists to quit mid-career.

"The more our work is routine and ordinary and transactional, the less fulfilling it can become,” he noted. “The less it becomes real to us in the way we were called to become a physician.”

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Brown had recommendations to address the needs of mid-career radiologists. These included:

– Overhaul awards and recognition: Traditionally, awards are based on academic research teaching and clinical service models. However, recognition should be given for behaviors that help prevent mid-career angst. For example, he advocates recognition for mentorship, compassionate care, or service to consulting physicians. In other words, the non-transactional parts of radiology work.

– Recognize that “we are all horrible” at maintaining perspective: Often, careerists don't have a handle on the positive impact they have on others — they devalue their contribution. Brown cited the example of Michelangelo, who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as a young artist early in his career. Later, he suffered from disengagement. In his 80’s, after working ten years on the sculpture the Florentine Pietà, he was so unhappy, he destroyed the statue with a sledgehammer. Ironically, many art historians consider the sculpture his technically finest work. But Michelangelo was so disconnected, he didn’t see it. Radiology colleagues must remind each other of their value and contribution.

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