As many of you know, residency reputation and quality throughout the country vary widely. Sure, the Radiology Residency Committee (RRC) and the American College of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) has set out specific guidelines for all radiology residencies to follow. However, over the years, I have discovered these instructions are merely a tool for individual programs to interpret as they will. As much as these organizations would like to have you believe, the current product is not standardized at all. So, how can a hospital or system convert a program into the best it can be? It’s straightforward. Treat it like any other significant patient care initiative, whether it be a renal transplant program or oncology center of excellence. And what do they all have in common? Active administrative management!
How Successful Programs Model Their Residencies
Take a look at the most successful programs, ones that are rated highly on Doximity and Aunt Minnie. First of all, management takes residency education seriously. Unlike many administrations who only pay lip service, saying that they take residency education as their prime mission, these few do. They treat a residency like a renal transplant program or a multiple sclerosis center of excellence. They build a program with an initial plan to provide the best training possible.
So, how do they do all this? First of all, they communicate with all the stakeholders, not just a few select administrators and high-up faculty onto themselves. They involve medical students, residents, fellows, section chiefs, chairs, residency coordinators, engineers, physicists, program directors, c-suite executives, managers, and more. Everyone plays a role, and everyone is aware of their educational role within the mission. They structure meetings with clear goals. Everyone knows the names of those folks in charge. It should not be that murky person with a cigarette in tow pulling all the strings like the nameless, faceless ones in charge of the government in the X-Files!
Second, these hospitals provide the resources that programs need to succeed. A renal transplant team cannot function without technical support from the surgical technologist or nurse. Nor could they survive without the highest quality equipment and tools for surgical intervention. Likewise, an excellent program cannot exist without the educational tools, numbers of involved faculty, and equipment.
And then finally, they establish buy-in from all members. And, I mean all members. Whether it is the CEO of the hospital or the janitors who need to take of the department, all are active participants. When a hospital establishes any other quality initiative, they all feed into a joint mission, and everyone wants it to succeed because they know their role within the system. That is how an organization does it!
An All-Too-Common Residency Model That Doesn’t Work
Unfortunately, this model contrasts markedly with the other all-too-common model. Many of you have seen these residencies on your interview trail or in your own experience. In this situation, orders arrive from a vague administrator whose command is to save money for a hospital or a system. These bureaucrats tell all the affected parties that they are going to have a great program. But, they establish no buy-in from the involved parties. And, they muzzle or fire individuals who seek to improve the system. This model would never work with a broad patient care initiative.
Moreover, these administrators do not communicate an effective mission statement to any of the players. In effect, they say they want an “Ivy League” program, but they do not provide any organization or structure to those that are on the front lines. They manage the world from thirty thousand feet in the air, hands-off, never uttering a word about their plans. And, then they cut the resources that a program would need to improve the education of its residents instead of facilitating improvements. These “saved” funds go back into the system to pad the pockets of the administration, instead of improving the education of what should be its targeted goal, the residents, and the residency program.
The Upshot Of Poor Planning In The Health Care System
Now, imagine the same happened to a formerly successful oncology program. It would have a short half-life. Eventually, it would dissolve due to the best oncologists, surgeons, primary care docs, nurses, and others wanting to leave the program for other better health care programs and facilities.
In this model of health care education, where entities want to save a buck or two, administrators reap most of the rewards. However, in the long run, it is a losing formula for the residency and the hospital system. Education does not improve. And the residency/health care system deteriorates over time.
What Are The Returns Of Doing It The Right Way?
When you approach a radiology program the right way, first and foremost, you elevate the quality of the residents that graduate. These are the sorts of folks that you would eventually want to hire in your practice. And, they stick around long after they graduate.
Next, you stimulate more dollars to come back into the system. How do you do that? First, the quality of care increases because you have provided an excellent education. And, these are the folks that take care of patients. Then, more patients come to your facility because they are aware of the quality. It first happens locally, then nationally, and then internationally.
And finally, you receive more support. It may be from research dollars from grants for doing incredible research. Or, it may come in the form of additional donations to the cause of education. Regardless, the program has established a virtuous cycle, a continuing formula that supports the hospital and residency throughout the ages. Administrators and all healthcare-related staff win.
The Sad Truth About Residency Program Management
Not all administrations are created equal. And, not all have the primary goal of establishing residency education as a primary mission as much as they like to imply. And, there are many factors involved, whether it be poor planning, greed, declining reimbursements, and more. But, in the end, it is only those administrators that have the foresight to make education priority number one that will create training programs that will stand the test of time. So, when you decide on your residency, choose carefully. Management matters!