6 COVID-related changes that radiology departments should maintain beyond the pandemic

Departments have adopted several changes during the pandemic to keep radiology residents safe, and experts believe there’s no reason to lift them when (or if) the COVID cloud parts.

Challenges faced over the last two years are numerous, including maintaining fairness and equity, navigating financial instability and surviving social isolation. But imaging leaders have risen to the task, pivoting to maintain continuity in the face of such uncertainty, experts noted Monday in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

“The COVID19 pandemic created challenges for nearly all aspects of radiology practice, including a significant impact on the radiology trainee experience,” Samantha Harrington, MD, a pediatric radiology fellow with Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues wrote Jan. 10. “Many workflow changes implemented during the pandemic were positive in terms of advancing trainee wellness and maximizing educational opportunities, and consideration should be given to making these permanent,” they added later.

Harrington and co-authors detailed five examples of pandemic-related changes they believe should stick around for the foreseeable future:

Workplace safety: The pandemic has highlighted the essential value of masking, handwashing and workplace cleanliness,” the authors wrote. “Perhaps more attention in the past should have been spent on workstation cleanliness, particularly in light of high rates of bacterial colonization of computer mice and microphones. The value of handwashing and workstation cleanliness are lessons we have learned.”

Education: “Going forward a hybrid of both in-person and remote meetings will likely be beneficial,” the authors argued. “Remote multidisciplinary meetings allow for collaboration with local and regional academic centers and promote a sharing of expertise,” they added later. “Educationally, residents, fellows and junior faculty can now participate in learning opportunities at other institutions where previously distance was a barrier.”

Equity: “Beyond the pandemic, supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives is essential. This includes strong leadership that prioritizes the representation of diverse faculty and trainees. Additionally, an active and supported DEI committee will help promote initiatives within the department to support underrepresented groups.”

Outside the hospital: “A parenting group was created within the authors’ radiology department. Flexible or remote scheduling is paramount for caregivers. Allowing flexible scheduling of diagnostic radiology work (facilitated by asynchronous readout capabilities) around childcare and increasing the availability of backup childcare will help offset the burden of reduced childcare options.”

Social isolation: “Creating a buddy or mentoring system with regular touchpoints provided additional connections between trainees at different training levels. The buddy system will continue beyond the pandemic,” Harrington and co-authors wrote. “Going forward, working while masked helps facilitate important social interactions during side-by-side readouts, as well as challenging conversations and constructive feedback that are more appropriate in person,” they added later.

Interviews: “Going forward with remote interviews, there will be a continued emphasis on informational videos, focusing on the trainee experience and life in a new location,” the authors noted. “Virtual gatherings, as opposed to a traditional dinner, will also be important,” they wrote later. “Looking beyond the pandemic, if the interview season returns in person, programs can consider travel stipends for those experiencing financial difficulties.”

Read much more of their pre-proof piece in JACR here.

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