The Power of Communication
Why are effective communication skills important for the future of young radiologists?
Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC) has become a priority in radiology departments across the countries in the past few years.1 With the advent of the Imaging 3.0® initiative, the radiologist went from being only involved in reading, dictating, and transcribing the imaging study to being involved in the entire imaging process — from initial consult to conveying the results of the imaging study to the patient or clinician. We are now communicating with patients and clinicians more than ever to make radiology more patient- and family-centered. As young radiologists, some of you were trained since the ACGME made proficiency communication and interpersonal skills a mandatory milestone for radiology residency training. However, many residency programs still struggle to effectively incorporate this into residency training — thus young radiologists’ communication skills training are still variable. Why should young radiologists make it a priority to ensure they have effective communication skills? The answer is more than just to fall in line with the recommendations from the ACR to make radiology more patient- and family-centered — your career success and happiness may depend on it.
Effective communication skills are important to foster a good doctor-patient relationship — which can improve clinical outcomes and even decrease litigation.2 One of the reasons we became doctors is because we wanted to provide quality care to patients — one of the best ways to do that is to have effective communication skills. This will allow us to have effective relationships with our patients and referring clinicians and show them our value in patient care. By showing our value, we can help ensure the longevity of the specialty, which is really important to young radiologists who have many more years in the field and want it to remain successful. In addition, all radiologists have at least a small fear of litigation in the back of their minds at all times. By having effective communication skills, you are less likely to be sued and thus, you can relax a little more. Who would not like to be more relaxed at work? Also, younger radiologists have less experience and may make more errors, so having effective communication skills is even more important for young radiologists.
A major issue facing radiologists right now is burnout, with 61 percent of radiologists reporting burnout symptoms.3 Inadequate training in communication skills has been acknowledged by physicians as a major factor contributing to burnout.4 With physician burnout being such an epidemic, training radiologists in effective communication skills may not only benefit the patients, but the physicians’ job satisfaction as well.4,5 It is important to make sure you have effective communication skills to combat burnout — thus finding faculty development courses and other resources, such as the ACR's curriculum, is important for young radiologists.6
In conclusion, effective communication skills are important to young radiologists because it helps them provide better patient care, decreases their chance of litigation, and helps us show our value in patient care. In addition, it also helps increase job satisfaction and decrease burnout. Seeking out faculty development opportunities to improve your communication skills is key for young radiologists.
Carolynn M. DeBenedectis, MD, is associate professor of radiology and radiology residency program director at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
- Rawson JV, Moretz J. Patient- and Family-Centered Care: A Primer. J Am Coll Radiol; 2016,13:1544–1549.
- Levinson W, Roter DL, Mullooly JP, Dull VT, Frankel RM. Physician-patient communication. The relationship with malpractice claims among primary care physicians and surgeons. J Am Med Assoc. 1997, 277(7):553–559.
- Shanafelt TD, Hasan O, Dyrbye LN, et al. Changes in burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance in physicians and the general US working population between 2011 and 2014. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015; 91:1600–1613.
- Ramirez AJ, Graham J, Richards MA, Cull A, Gregory WM. Mental health of hospital consultants: the effects of stress and satisfaction at work. Lancet, 1996; 347: 724–728.
- Restauri N, Flug JA, Mcarthur TA. A Picture of Burnout: Case Studies and Solutions Toward Improving Radiologists’ Well-being. Curr Probl Diagn Radiol, 2017;46(5):365–368. doi: 10.1067/j.cpradiol.
- American College of Radiology Communication Curriculum for Radiology Residents: An experiential exercise in patient- and family-centered care. https://www.acr.org/Member-Resources/rfs/learning/Communication-for-Radiology-Residents. 2018.