Radiologists work more to find time for more play

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Radiologists are working approximately five more hours every week, but they also take 12 more vacation days a year, according to a survey from the American College of Radiology. The results apply not only to private practice radiologists, but to those in academic departments and multispecialty groups as well.

Results from surveys in 1995, 2003, and 2007 show an increase in hours worked per week of approximately 10%, or five hours. Mean vacation days increased from 27 in 1997 to 39 in 2007, which means a 5% decrease in the number of days worked (AJR 2009;193[4]:1136-1140).

“The trend in work hours can show how radiologists are coping in the face of increased imaging,” said Dr. Jonathan Sunshine, senior director of research at ACR and lead author of the study.

A large increase in the work hours of the average radiologist may portend both burnout and expansion of the role of nonradiologists in imaging, driven by the inability of radiologists to keep up with the increase in workload, he said.

Radiologists worked, on average, 53 hours a week in 2003. Broken down into subsets, the researchers found since 1995 an increase in hours worked per week of seven for academic radiologists, four for private practice radiologists, and one for those in multispecialty practices.

In 2007, 25% of radiologists worked 45 or fewer hours a week. The researchers also found 25% of radiologists worked 55 hours or more per week.

“Our practice has definitely increased our workload since 1995, and clearly more than 10%,” said Dr. Robert Pyatt, a radiologist at Chambersburg Imaging Associates in Chambersburg, PA.

Currently, radiologists at the practice read about 20,000 cases per year. They read about 15,000 per year in 1995.

“The actual opposing trends in weekly hours and days worked per year may reflect the more intense demand for after-hours coverage faced by radiologists over the study period,” Sunshine said.

Academic radiologists worked more hours than nonacademics: 25% work-ed 48 hours or fewer a week and 25% worked 58 hours or more per week.

“I probably work the same number of hours in the department as I have in the past, but spend at least as much time working outside the hospital on academic activities,” said Dr. Stuart Mirvis, a professor diagnostic radiology at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

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