I’ve written before about RVUs and how much work is too much for a radiologist. But, let’s talk about how to figure your work limit before getting into RVU numbers. And that begins right where many of you are now, in radiology residency. Don’t just assume that you will start your first radiology job and you will comfortably work your tail off to make a gazillion dollars per year for the rest of your life. It’s not sustainable. Trust me. You will never be more miserable in your life.
So, how much can you do without going batty? Well, I am going to be a little bit formulaic and give you some ideas on how to figure that out now. Don’t make the wrong decision and work for that next burnout factory!
Do Some Thought Experiments To Determine Your Work Limit
Let’s Say You Could Do Your Favorite Specialty All The Time
Let’s begin by creating an ideal job for yourself where you could do just the right amount of work. For those of you who only want to practice within a specific subspecialty like mammography, this answer should be simple. How many of these studies can you realistically read in any given day without tiring yourself out? Is it twenty, forty, a hundred, or more? The number may not be entirely exact. But, it’s an excellent starting point when you begin to look.
Start thinking in this way because, for some lucky individuals, you can pick the number of studies you want to read in your desired subspecialty. Especially in this market, you can find many lifestyle jobs in the market. Who knows, maybe you can find one of them?
Let’s Say You Could Do Some of Your Favorite Specialty Some Of The Time
For many of you out there, you want to do some work within your area of expertise. But, you would also like to practice in other subspecialties as well. So, say you opt for 25% of the work in your area of fellowship training. And, maybe, the other 75 percent you will dedicate to outside your primary discipline. In this situation, think about which areas within radiology you would like to practice outside your subspecialty. And then, come up with a particular quantity of studies that you can comfortably read in a day.
Why is it more critical to figure out the number of studies you can read outside your primary area of expertise? Well, you want to figure out the most you can bear to do in specialties that you are the slowest. And, for most, that number relies on work they are willing to perform outside of their fellowship training.
In this thought experiment, I would recommend to base this number on your experience on call at nighttime or moonlighting. And then, take that number and apply it to your next job.
Imagine What It Would Be Like On A Day Of Your Worst Nightmares
And then finally, imagine what it would be like to have to practice on a day where your worst nightmares come true. Maybe, you hate reading triple-phase CT scans for pancreatic masses (probably one of my least favorite!) Well, pick a day where you have a ton of them. How much would it take to make you want to abandon ship? Well, you need to figure that number out. Why? Because Murphy’s Law says it will happen and likely more than once. Unless you make sure that you find a practice that will guarantee that you will not get a day like that, you will experience it. So, figure out what this number would be.
Take A Test Drive Right Now- Apply The Ideal To Reality!
Now that you have some ideas about the numbers of studies that you would like to complete, you are now ready to confirm it all with real-world experience. How can you do that as a resident or fellow? Well, pick a day at your site. And then, go through the number of cases in your specialties of choice that you decided you can complete in any given day. Try it several times to confirm that this is a number that you can handle.
Of course, later on in your career, you will pick up speed and read more studies quicker. But, at least by giving it a trial run right now, it will provide you with a general idea of what your work limit might be. Well, how did it feel? Did it match with your thought experiments? If it doesn’t, and you feel like you should be reading more or less, rinse, wash, and repeat. Readjust the number depending on your experiences. There is no better time than the present to figure it all out!
Finding Your Work Limit The Right Way!
At this point, you have a realistic idea of the number of studies that you can handle. And you can apply it to your next job search. So, when you interview, ask questions about the numbers of cases that you are expected to read. Does it match up with what you have calculated would work for you? If it does, keep it in mind as a potential candidate for your next job.
Burnout is a hot topic these days with many job prospects expecting way too much from their applicants. If you want to prevent it from happening to you, be deliberate when you look for your next job. And, utilize these recommendations for helping you to vet the practices you seek. Being methodical and intentional about figuring how many cases you can comfortably and safely read now can be critical to your future career happiness and success!