Battling burnout: 3 ways to improve radiology residents’ sense of personal accomplishment

In this modern era of quality over quantity, reducing the causes of burnout is one of the most effective ways imaging leaders can ensure patients receive the best care possible. For a new study published in Academic Radiology, researchers surveyed a group of radiology residents to better understand their sense of personal accomplishment (PA) and learn how it could be improved.

“Burnout can lead to decreased effectiveness and productivity, reduced job commitment, negative effects on home life, negative effects on personal health, and compromised patient safety,” wrote Jeffrey P. Guenette, MD, and Stacy E. Smith, MD, of the department of radiology at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. “Burnout occurs when job demands exceed job resources.”

Overall, more than 300 residents completed the survey. Sixty-nine percent of respondents were male, and 31 percent were female. The mean PA score for the group was 35.6—for medical professionals, anything less than 34 is considered a low score.

Based on their findings, these are three ways the authors think residency program directors and chief residents could improve the overall sense of PA among radiology residents:

1. Develop and implement effective feedback mechanisms.

According to the survey, “I regularly receive adequate constructive feedback” was one statement that had a positive correlation with PA.

By providing “thoughtful, constructive” feedback and focusing on “personal growth and development,” the authors explained, leaders can help their residents feel a stronger sense of PA.

2. Encourage resident-only conferences, open forums and social events.

According to the survey, “I have good social support from my co-residents” was another statement that had a positive correlation with PA. By encouraging residents to meet more regularly and even socialize, it may make them feel more comfortable around one another and help them understand that they have each other’s support.

3. Remind residents that their work is valuable to society.

“The skills and knowledge that I am building are important and helpful to society” was another statement with a positive correlation with PA.

Residents dedicate their professional lives to helping patients, yet they still may need to be reminded that the work they are doing is important. Guenette and Smith suggested that leaders share highlights of each resident’s “clinical and research efforts” to remind them of the impact they can have on population health.

The author added that their study is limited by “potential response bias.” In addition, some factors that may play a role in resident PA, such as personal finances, were not included in this particular study.

“In conclusion, radiology residents score higher in the PA domain of burnout when they receive adequate constructive feedback, have good co-resident social support, and feel that the skills and knowledge they are building are important to society,” the authors wrote.