Can RCAT programs alleviate the stress of radiology residents?

To help on-call radiology residents feel less stressed throughout their shifts, many academic radiology centers and residency programs are now employing third- and fourth-year medical students, technologists, clerical staff and others to serve as call triage assistants. A radiology call assistant triage (RCAT) program is meant to alleviate stressors on residents and offer medical students an opportunity for exposure in the field.

In a recent study published by Academic Radiology, researchers from the department of radiology at Duke University in Durham, N.C., sought to examine the efficacy and characteristics of different RCAT models while implementing such a program at their own institution.

A survey was emailed to active members of the Association of Program Directors in Radiology. The survey included questions about the existence of an RCAT program and the related qualifications, responsibilities, hours, compensation and training of the triage assistant. More than 90 responses were used for final analysis. 20 of the radiology residency programs reported to have a current RCAT program.

“The majority of residency programs report satisfaction with the program and none plan on terminating their call assistant program,” wrote lead author Jennifer Shaffer Ngo, MD, and colleagues. “Some of the most commonly perceived benefits included improved workflow efficiency, minimization of interruptions, and decreased resident stress.”

Staffing included 60 percent nonmedical or clerical staff, 30 percent medical school students, five percent first-year radiology residents and five percent technologists. A majority of respondents said they have no plans to change their programs while the remaining 25 percent are considering expansion and an increase in pay. The most common reasons for not having triage assistants included cost, lack of awareness and the presence of round-the-clock coverage.

“Whether utilizing medical students, first-year radiology residents, or clerical staff, all programs report satisfaction with their program,” wrote Ngo et al. “Perceived benefits to the residency program include improved workflow efficiencies, minimization of interruptions, and decreased resident stress. We hope our findings might help those residency programs now considering a call assistant triage program.”