With market forces and new federal policies prompting cutbacks in radiology hiring, academic institutions and private practices must focus on recruiting—and keeping—the best possible staff for the positions they do have, experts say.
“The current situation is certainly a recruiter’s dream, a trainee’s nightmare,” said C. Douglas Maynard, M.D., professor emeritus of radiology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and 2000 RSNA President. Dr. Maynard was one of four presenters of the RSNA 2012 session, Recruiting and Retaining Radiologists and Staff. “We’ve been here before—this has happened in my lifetime at least three times,” he said. “Until the economy recovers, it’s not likely we’ll have additional jobs available.”
A faculty vacancy survey Dr. Maynard has been conducting over the last dozen years with the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments (SCARD) members and other radiology chairs shows a steady decline in available positions in academic radiology. Certain subspecialties such as pediatric radiology, interventional radiology and breast imaging remain difficult positions to fill, Dr. Maynard said.
Exacerbating the economic pressures against creating new positions is the fact that physicians are not retiring, further reducing the vacancies available to new radiologists. While there is increased demand for night coverage, a number of department chairs have suggested decreasing the number of residents and fellows, Dr. Maynard said.
“Some practices are actually downsizing faculty and letting staff members go,” he said. “The market out there is extremely tough.”
Academic radiology practices looking to fill their precious open positions with exemplary staff are wise to start by recruiting the best possible residents, training them well and exposing them to the excitement of an academic environment from the onset, said session presenter R. Gilbert Jost, M.D., the Elizabeth Mallinckrodt Professor of Radiology and chair of the Department of Radiology for Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and director of the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology.
“We draw a significant number of faculty recruits from our residents,” said Dr. Jost, 2007 RSNA President, a 2012 RSNA Gold Medal recipient and a member of the RSNA News Editorial Board. “We pride ourselves on being extremely friendly and responsive. We go out of our way to create a collegial environment. Learning to be a great radiologist can be a challenging experience, but it shouldn’t have to be a painful one.”
Also key to academic recruitment and retention are intellectual challenges, opportunities for growth, job security, feelings of worth and contribution, appropriate compensation and an enjoyable workplace, said presenter James P. Borgstede, M.D., a professor and vice-chair of radiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.
While factors like salary, location, vacation and clinical focus can make private practices more desirable to job candidates than academic institutions, some private practices are adopting a cost-cutting model of operating smaller practices and eliminating less profitable imaging exams, Dr. Borgstede said.
More appropriate, Dr. Borgstede said, is a strategy to retain quality radiologists and recruit physicians who have IT and decision support expertise along with the skills to fill areas of clinical shortage.
“There will be a shortage of radiologists in the future so the specialty should make no drastic changes in residency positions,” Dr. Borgstede said. “Groups should prepare for competition for new hires in the future.”
Regardless of the market, the recruiting/application process always has two sides, said RSNA session presenter William T. Thorwarth Jr., M.D., a radiologist/partner at Catawba Radiological Associates in Hickory, N.C., and RSNA Board Liaison for Publications and Communications. He urged both parties in employment negotiation to do their due diligence.
“Joining a group is like entering a marriage,” Dr. Thorwarth said. “It is expensive in time and money for both parties, so make it worth your effort.”
The radiology job market has been a roller coaster, “and everyone wishes for a crystal ball but it doesn’t exist,” Dr. Thorwarth said. In the meanwhile, applicants and employers alike should commit to honesty and transparency, he said.
“Practices and applicants should look at their own needs and desires and do their best to match those with the other,” he said.
The RSNA 2012 session, “Recruiting and Retaining Radiologists and Staff,” was among the wide variety of RSNA 2012 courses sponsored through the Academy of Radiology Leadership and Management (ARLM),dedicated to offering radiology professionals the opportunity to enhance and develop as leaders.
ARLM is sponsored by five participating radiology education societies, including RSNA, which continues to offer courses either online or in-person at meetings throughout 2013.
Medical imaging professionals can earn a Certificate of Achievement from ARLM by earning 50 education credits —at least 30 credits in person— across a spectrum of core learning domains, including Financial Skills, Human Resources, Professionalism, Legal/Contracting, Academic Mission and General Management. A minimum of three credits in each domain is required.
There are no fees beyond costs associated with CME activities, and many of those are free to members of the respective sponsoring societies.
To view the course catalog for 2013 and for more information on ARLM, go to www.radleaders.org/index.cfm.
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