Many Radiologists Wouldn’t Choose Medicine Again -- As Physician Shortage Continues, More Radiologists Seek Work-Life Balance

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Reflecting the frustrations of modern medical practice, 29% of radiologists responding to a 2005 survey conducted by physician recruiting firm LocumTenens.com said they would not choose medicine if they could decide their career paths all over again. When compared to locum tenens industry studies asking the same question of physicians across a range of specialties, LocumTenens.com’s 2005 figure represents an increase of 24% since 1997.

However, most physicians choose medicine for reasons beyond a paycheck and many of them today are seeking better work-life balance.

Reflecting the frustrations of modern medical practice, 29% of radiologists responding to a 2005 survey conducted by physician recruiting firm LocumTenens.com said they would not choose medicine if they could decide their career paths all over again. When compared to locum tenens industry studies asking the same question of physicians across a range of specialties, LocumTenens.com’s 2005 figure represents an increase of 24% since 1997.

“Radiologist salaries have skyrocketed over the past decade because there aren’t enough of them to meet demand,” LocumTenens.com Vice President Katie Thill said. (Respondents to LocumTenens.com pegged average annual compensation for a radiologist in the United States at $354,260.) “However, most physicians choose medicine for reasons beyond a paycheck and many of them today are seeking better work-life balance.”

Thill suggested this trend has helped 11-year-old LocumTenens.com increase revenue by 600% over the last five years (2000 to 2005).

While almost half (49%) of radiologists responding to the LocumTenens.com survey conducted earlier this year indicated they had no plans to make a job change, half said they planned to change jobs in the next three years—23% within 6 months. Fifty-three percent of those in the job market cited lifestyle issues (“better community for self/family” or “better work environment”) as their top reason for making the change.

Radiologist Shortage

In the last decade U.S. healthcare facilities, particularly those in rural areas, have experienced a shortage of radiologists. Industry data indicate the crisis in coverage of the early 2000’s has leveled off considerably in the last couple of years. However, demand for radiology services is likely to outpace physician supply into the foreseeable future.

“Improving medical technology and aging baby boomers are increasing the number of imaging procedures, while the pool of radiologists remains fairly stable.” Thill said. She referred to American Medical Association data indicating the number of residents entering radiology practice between 1990 and 2002 declined by 1%. Meanwhile, locum tenens industry sources indicate demand increased by 16% in a much shorter time frame (1997-2001).

A recent study of demand by National Imaging Associates indicates patient use of imaging technology triples after age 65. According to the August 1 issue of RT Image, the number of imaging procedures will likely grow to nearly half a billion outpatient and 100-million inpatient scans annually by 2008.

“The good news is that teleradiology is being used increasingly to fill the coverage gaps,” Thill said. “That’s why our firm began offering virtual radiology staffing to our clients last year.” LocumTenens.com clients can choose offsite radiologists to read films and submit reports using business partner Neurostar’s, web-based, HIPAA-compliant Virtual Radiology Network (VRN). “The service is particularly attractive to facilities with too much reading volume for one radiologist, but not enough for two,” Thill adds.

In its Web-based survey LocumTenens.com polled more than 1,400 radiologists. To view the complete survey results, visit http://www.locumtenens.com/about/surveys.

Founded in 1995, LocumTenens.com is a full-service physician recruiting firm specializing in supplemental placement of anesthesiologists, radiologists, psychiatrists, surgeons and CRNAs (certified registered nurse anesthetists) with U.S. hospitals, medical groups and community health centers. LocumTenens.com is part of the Jackson Healthcare Solutions family of companies. To learn more, visit the company's web sites at http://www.locumtenens.com and http://www.crnajobs.com/.

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Billie Wickstrom
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