3 ways to reduce burnout, loneliness among radiology trainees

Burnout is a pervasive and growing problem among young radiologists, but one Boston-based hospital may have found a remedy. 

Brigham and Women’s Hospital recently held a retreat for about 40 of its radiology residents. Feedback has been positive following the one-day affair, with camaraderie improving, according to a study published earlier this month by Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology. 

“The data we collected strongly suggests the retreat was well-received and residents would like it to continue,” wrote Matthew Haber, a radiology resident at Brigham and Women’s, and colleagues. 

The authors noted that burnout among radiology residents has increased in recent years. A 2018 Medscape survey found it to be the seventh highest specialty for career fatigue, up from the 20th spot the previous year. Other surveys have suggested that radiology resident burnout could be as high as 85%, the study noted. Social support is often hard to find for these individuals, who spend long hours alone in reading rooms, leading to isolation and loneliness. 

Wanting to quell this trend among its own trainees, Brigham and Women’s put together its inaugural resident retreat last October. The autumn outing was inspired by wellness recommendations from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and funded by the radiology department. 

It included three components, with the curriculum designed by a committee convened to promote wellness among radiology residents. 

  1. Teambuilding and bonding: Organizers broke this part of the day into three components—small-group icebreaking to get the day going; team trivia to allow trainees to bond further with their peers; and an outdoor scavenger hunt, where groups were divided among different classes so residents could meet their under- and upperclassmen. 
  2. Design thinking: Residents participated in this popular method of quality improvement to determine ways to address burnout and build camaraderie. Participants split up into groups based on topic and devised solutions that were later presented to leaders of the program. 
  3. Guided reflection: Finally, young took part in guided reflection, discussing themes specific to each class year, which the wellness committee had selected beforehand. These included “starting from scratch” for Year 1 and “making an impact” for Year 3. First- and fourth-year students were paired to share their overlapping experiences, as were second- and third-year residents. 

Afterward, participants filled out a paper questionnaire to rate their experience. The program seems to have been a hit, with 97% believing the retreat will improve their residency experience and 82% suggesting that it would improve their personal wellness. 

“Radiology residencies nationwide may benefit from similar retreat curricula within their programs as a means of improving personal wellness and reducing burnout,” the study concluded.