One of the most significant changes in radiology in the post-Covid age is the ability for radiologists to “telecommute” to work. The pandemic has hastened the adoption of these technologies, not just for teleradiologists but for almost every practicing radiologist. Nevertheless, most radiology residents still cannot read from home workstations (although I have heard of a few).
So, is it a good idea for residents to have workstations at home? Well, I will go through some of the pros and cons of home workstations for residents. And, then I will give you my conclusion for which if any residents should have workstations from home.
Reasons For Residents To Not Have Workstations
Need Real-Time Consultations To Learn
My best teaching situations are routine phone calls and visits from our physician colleagues at the workstation. And when a resident takes these consults, they are most likely to learn how to practice and communicate in radiology. Working from home decreases these potential connections to the daily consultations that radiology residents will receive.
“No Real Time Teaching”
Especially for first-year residents, there is no substitute for sitting with an attending at a workstation for a bit to learn radiology. Yes, it is possible to make phone calls to your faculty to go over the images. But, usually, only after you have seen the case and without a faculty member by your side. So, you lose out on many teachable moments to learn about normal findings or ask miscellaneous questions on all the cases you see. These questions can be the most thought-provoking.
Reading In A Bubble
Yes. You need to make independent decisions and read by yourself eventually. But, when you are at the institution reading, you can more easily recruit the help of nurses, technologists, faculty, and more. It is much easier to talk to the ultrasound technologists about patients’ histories in person who just completed a case than to catch staff on the phone somewhere. Ancillary staff and fellow physicians add critical information to your findings and interpretations.
It is a significant additional expense for institutions to allow residents to read from home. Workstations can run in price from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. And Medicare only indirectly reimburses for resident dictations, so it has low perceived value for the institutions. Therefore, resident workstations can theoretically increase the cost of healthcare.
Reasons To Have Workstations
Residents get sick just like everyone else. And, sometimes, it’s a mild bug (or even Covid!). Most residents don’t want to infect everyone else. Yet, they still may have the ability and desire to work. Well, with a home workstation, that is still possible. Having a workstation from home opens the possibility of continuing to learn and read without having to take a day off!
Looking Up And Reading Cases Off-Hours
Sometimes, you just want to look at actual cases at any hour. Maybe, it was an interesting case from the day. Or, you just want to learn more about a particular subspecialty, say MR MSK. For that matter, residents (and faculty) are much more likely to learn about these cases and subjects on off hours if they can look them up quickly at home. That power can undoubtedly add to resident education.
More Accessible To Prepare Interdisciplinary Presentations
We often see residents scrambling to get all the cases they need for the next tumor board during the day. This process can often interfere with daily work. If you have a workstation at home, there is no excuse for doing these activities off-hours when you are home. It’s much easier to complete when you don’t have to go to the hospital.
Is It Worth It For Radiology Residents To Get Workstations?
I am certainly one of the biggest proponents for onsite learning as a faculty member. Based on the many reasons above, such as real-time teaching, I tend to learn more when sitting at the hospital surrounded by colleagues instead of reading cases from home. Something about being present with others enhances the learning process. And that is one of the main reasons residents do a radiology residency, to learn.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that the flexibility of home workstations can also help when a “traditional” learning environment is unavailable, whether due to sickness or after-hours work. So, I am not against residents having home workstations if the institution can afford to pay for it. But, home workstations should not replace the residency experience. Instead, workstations can supplement the learning environment for the resident. As an add-on tool, it’s not a bad idea!