Med students consider radiology a ‘low status’ profession, are unaware of its scope of practice

Medical students think radiology is a “low-status” profession in healthcare, but they do admire its perceived work-life balance.

That’s according to a new survey of almost 330 trainees, conducted at one United Kingdom medical school. Asked to rank specialties for their long-term career aspirations, students pegged radiology at No. 10 out of 14, ahead of only psychiatry, public health and pathology, according to the study, published Monday, Nov. 4, in Clinical Radiology.

Negative factors that may be turning students away from radiology include lack of time spent with patients, the general public’s perception of the profession, lack of variation in work and the office environment itself. This underlines the need to better educate undergraduates about the practice, wrote H.C. Oliver, with the department of radiology at Royal United Hospital in Bath, UK, and colleagues.

“Radiology remains a specialty with limited exposure and experience for undergraduate students, who appear to be incompletely aware of the scope and range of the modern radiologists' work,” Oliver noted. “However, the data show that students' perceptions of radiology and radiologists are broadly positive.”

On the latter point, students did have positive perceptions about radiology related to making an impact on patient diagnosis (73% of respondents), work-life balance (almost 70%), level of intellectual challenge (54.6%), on-call demands (54%) and patient treatment/management (50%).

Meanwhile, the highest-ranking negative factors pushing individuals away from radiology included patient relationship and contact time (70%), variation in the work (49%), radiology’s workplace environment (40%), whether the profession is suited to my skills/aptitude (32%) and enjoyment of working in radiology (29%).

Pediatrics, general practice and emergency medicine proved to be the most popular specialties among survey respondents. Oliver et al. noted that work needs to be done to help students better understand radiology, particularly as it relates to interaction with others.

“The students' perception that radiologists have little patient contact contradicts the reality of increasing radiologists' time spent with patients as part of ultrasound, interventional radiology procedures, pediatric and breast imaging, and supervised cardiac CT and MRI examinations,” they wrote.

Ways to further close this understanding gap could include requiring students to attend and participate in radiology reporting sessions, involving them in the imaging aspects of multidisciplinary team meetings and exposing them to all of the varying subspecialties in the profession.

“This would enable students to increase their understanding of the significant input that radiologists have regarding patient care in the emergency, inpatient and outpatient settings,” the study concluded.