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Easing radiology’s labor pains

July 06, 2023
Business Affairs
Nanci Wozniak
By Nanci Wozniak

“How do I find a radiologic technologist?” At the height of the pandemic, those words were uttered with alarming frequency in hospital management circles and as high up as the C-suite, as healthcare was hit with a critical radiology labor shortage. But with the transition to COVID-19’s endemic phase, management and C-suite leaders should ask a more nuanced question: “How do I act in a fiscally responsible manner to drive and increase efficiencies in my hospital’s workforce?”

In some cases, a warm professional body still may be the best way to address radiology’s labor pains. It cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution, however. Replacement technologists remain in short supply, the existing workforce is aging out of the profession, and up to 40 percent of technologists report symptoms of burnout. Also, many technologists feel that they were promised concessions during the pandemic that never materialized the way they did for nurses. Factor in the increasing desire for a work/life balance, and traditional ways of addressing the labor issue must be reconsidered. Fortunately, several solutions can foster efficiency in radiology’s existing workforce—without breaking the bank.

One solution is upskilling and training a hospital’s existing workforce of technologists to perform at a higher level. Research has shown that highly trained technologists achieve reduced exam time (up to two minutes per computed tomography scan, for example). This training can boost reimbursement revenue as much as $150,000-plus annually per technologist. With this improved training, the institution also will realize greater efficiency from its multi-million-dollar investment in medical imaging equipment.

Another solution involves improving methods of employee retention, to avoid the next instance of turnover that could result in $40,000 to $50,000 in productivity losses, overtime costs, and brand reputation management. Programs for investing in future clinical leaders create opportunities for individual recognition, growth, and advancement—all hallmarks of employee satisfaction—while also netting operational gains for the health system.

Implementing and expanding coaching and developmental opportunities within the radiology department can be beneficial, too. By building and driving that next level of leadership, a hospital can see increased patient volume, more efficient equipment utilization, and safer exams through reduced radiation dose. These benefits improve patient outcomes and the overall experience while increasing revenue. In turn, the improved quality of the day-to-day working environment creates a deeper, richer work culture. And while a competitive salary remains vital to attracting and retaining employees, a positive work environment and nurturing work culture are close behind.

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