Is Radiology Still A Career Or Just A Job? And What Does It Mean?
What exactly is a career? Well, if you listen to the internet authority, Wikipedia, it is “an individual’s metaphorical “journey” through learning, work and other aspects of life.” And, what is the definition of a job? Again, if you listen to “all-knowing” Wikipedia, a job is an activity, often regular and often performed in exchange for payment (“for a living.”)
So, which definition does radiology meet today, a career or a mere job, a transaction made to make a simple living? Many long-standing radiologists and outsiders would say that radiology is a career. You put countless years into learning and practicing the art and science of radiology. Moreover, when you finish, you live and breathe the profession. You strive for professional excellence. More importantly, it becomes ingrained in and part of your persona.
Well, I believe today these everyday thoughts are an oversimplified answer to the question of whether radiology is a career or a job. As such, the response has transformed itself over the past ten to 20 years.
Changes To The Equation of Job Versus Career For Radiologists
So, what exactly has changed over the past decade or two that has morphed the answer to this question? First, the landscape of medicine has dramatically shifted. Students that formerly completed school with reasonable amounts of student loans, now graduate with hordes of debt. Additionally, external pressures from governmental bureaucracies have dramatically increased. Numbers of films that radiologists need to read and procedures they must perform have exponentially climbed. In fact, some may say that the numbers have far surpassed what is safe for patients.
Finally, different demographics have joined the profession. Today, many radiologists want to practice part-time to raise a family or pursue other interests. Years ago, this type of radiologist was much less common.
Individually, each of these factors plays a role in the change. In the next few paragraphs, we will go into more detail about the reason for each.
Reasons Radiology Has Become A Job For Many
Well, let’s start by talking about the noose hanging around the shoulder of new radiologists, enormous student debt. In the past, radiology residency graduates could afford to pick and choose where and what to practice based on the merits of the post-residency job alone. No longer is that the case. Now, it becomes more important to make sure that you can afford the debt service payments and the day-to-day living expenses of the region of practice. For many, finding work is about desperately need to make ends meet. So, radiology merely becomes a means to this end.
We all feel the weight of increased paperwork and regulations that we must follow. To that end, maintenance of certification has become more stringent (although more recently it has been slightly letting up). Requirements for accreditation have been increasing exponentially. Also, the maze of insurance requirements to complete a study keeps rising. Moreover, these factors are the tip of the iceberg. For many radiologists, many bureaucratic factors lead to resign themselves to practice radiology as a job.
The Work Treadmill
Nowadays, many radiologists are hostage to the ever-increasing numbers of studies that they need to read. Public expectations for delivery of results promptly and efficiently have climbed. Also, time to transcription has become the holy grail of the hospital administration. In these conditions, how can some radiologists perceive their work as more than just a cog in the wheel to make ends meet?
Finally, we need to also talk about the reasons that different radiologists pursue radiology. No longer do all radiologists fit the same mold. For some, their role in raising a family has become more crucial than the position that they may play in running a radiology practice. So, these radiologists merely want to fund their lifestyle and not get involved in the professional aspects of radiology.
What Does This All Mean?
Well, to start with, we know that the most consummate professionals invest themselves heavily in their career and see their profession as a calling. These are the incredible clinicians, the movers, and the “shakers.” Moreover, they perform the groundbreaking research, make the improbable diagnoses, teach their residents, and create radiology systems and businesses to promote the profession.
However, based on the new pressures on individual radiologists, we cannot expect all radiologists to see their original “calling” as a “career.” Instead, many other factors play into the equation. Student debt burdens some radiologists. Alternatively, the chains of beauracracy and increasing workloads prevent the pursuit of their interests and infringe upon the professional lifestyle of a radiologist.
Regardless, we should not talk badly about those radiologists that need to work in the profession as merely as a job. Many radiologists have excellent reasons for that. Instead, we should work to fix those factors that have changed to make radiology into a job, so that we can improve the quality of our profession and return it to a career for all.