The Big [Jobs] Picture
New reports find the demand for radiologists won’t fade out anytime soon.
If you’re looking for a job, you might be discouraged by talk of changing payment models, burnout, and machines taking over. But the reality is, radiology jobs are back.
Each year the ACR Commission on Human Resources surveys practices nationwide to get a snapshot of radiology’s current work environment and to identify anticipated job opportunities. The 2017 survey shows a 14 percent increase in hiring over 2016. That equates to between 1,826 and 2,370 new job openings and represents a notable growth trend of radiology jobs in the past four years.1
In the early 2000s, radiologists were a hot ticket, according to physician recruiter and staffing firm Merritt Hawkins. But by 2013, and on through late 2015, they had dropped off the list of the top 20 mostsought after specialists.
“When we look back to 2003, radiology was our number- one most requested search,” says Travis Singleton, senior vice president with Merritt Hawkins. “It wasn’t a surprise that radiology came back. But it did surprise us that we didn’t have the supply of radiologists out there that we thought.”
In fact, the number of employers seeking radiology services has grown so much that it has returned to Merritt Hawkins’ top ten most requested positions for the first time since 2007.2 The firm earlier this year posted annual job search review findings based on more than 3,200 physician search assignments received between April 2016 and March 2017.
Setting the Scene
“A combination of factors has led to more job openings,” says Claire E. Bender, MD, FACR, professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and chair of the ACR Commission on Human Resources. “An aging workforce has led to an increase in the number of physicians retiring. We are also seeing more part-time opportunities.” And as the scope of radiology expands to be more consultative, imagers have more opportunities in research, education, and administration.
The ACR survey findings confirm that workforce needs are changing significantly as older radiologists leave the workforce. It also shows a growing number of part-time radiologists. And, based on the decreasing number of practices registered with the ACR Practice of Radiology Environment Database, the survey concludes that there is an early trend of practice consolidation.
“The decreasing number of radiology practices… from consolidation and purchase of practices by private practices, hospitals, and for-profit corporations, is a trend that needs to be carefully monitored because it could change the tenor of the future practice of radiology,” the ACR survey findings note.
Another force affecting the specialty is teleradiology. While not new to the job market, teleradiology has become an increasingly attractive solution for groups looking to manage costs, achieve regulatory compliance, and deliver efficient and cost-effective patient care.3
“In a sense, teleradiology can be a godsend for a lot of health systems because there is no other way to staff them,” Singleton says. Employers want to provide imaging services off-site that fit into a team-based health care model across different specialties. Meanwhile, patients like the choices telemedicine can provide, Singleton says, with more points of access to care. So it’s no surprise growing health systems are embracing teleradiology. “Five years ago our firm didn’t even do teleradiology. But the demand is growing so fast that even though a lot of radiologists aren’t looking for that type of arrangement, they are now open to talking about it,” says Singleton.
The current demand for radiologists, Singleton says, is indicative not only of an increase in new diagnostic imaging procedures and a more limited candidate pool but also of the proliferation of specialized services.
Meeting a Need
About 90 percent of radiologists are now being hired because of expertise in a subspecialty, according to the ACR commission’s survey. Those skills are particularly needed beyond metropolitan areas, in underserved rural communities. These small communities often value in-person positions as well. “There are still tons of rural facilities out there that want someone on-site,” Singleton notes. “There is high demand in radiology right now for boots-on-the ground positions.”
A breakdown of ACR’s membership shows that 87 percent of radiologists work in a metropolitan area — defined as having a population of 50,000 or more — with just under 13 percent serving rural areas. Nearly half of the recruiting assignments Merritt Hawkins tracked for 2017 were to serve communities of less than 100,000 people.
Location of the job notwithstanding, the most sought after radiologists are still the ones willing to get out of the reading room, take call, make themselves available nights and weekends, and perform interventional procedures.
Finding a Balance
Money is only one of many factors to consider when changing positions or for those just entering practice. “Balance of one’s work and life are extremely important when seeking a position in radiology today,” says Bender. “This is a complex issue that includes family, lifestyle, demographics, personal and professional goals, and academic versus private settings.”
When looking for a new job, you might want to consider the diversity and inclusion side of a practice or health group and the location and makeup of the community it serves, she notes. Your comfort level in a work environment is a big part of overall job satisfaction. And it’s worth taking a look at the resources that come with the position you are interested in. “Consider the administration, the latest technology, the support services, and the benefits they have to offer,” she says. Policies that include part-time work might be appealing. Medical and family leave policies could also influence your decision, Bender says.
Owning Future Jobs
Radiologists shouldn’t worry about finding their niche in the future because there will be plenty of opportunities, according to Singleton. “I think you’re going to see radiology positions continue to escalate,” he says. The complex health issues of an aging population are expected to fuel demand. “We knew it was just a matter of time before we started to really feel the effect of Baby Boomers,” says Singleton.
The integration of AI in radiology can also be a driver. “On the surface, I think many radiologists see this as a threat to their jobs,” says Bender. But radiology has long been on the digital information and technology path, she says, and incorporating AI in an organized, patient-centered way will make things better for both patients and the specialty. “It’s a unique opportunity for our specialty to be the leader in this next phase of medicine, with the cognitive skills of radiologists being enhanced by the AI effort,” she says.
As the health care system has changed, renewed demand for radiologists was inevitable. “Radiology is central to diagnostic and procedural work in today’s health care system, in which very little transpires without imaging,” Singleton says. Groups within health systems can shift resources around all they want to save money, he says, but demand for radiologists is going to climb.
Looking for a New Position?
The ACR Career Center connects you with hundreds of available positions. But you’ll also find radiology-specific information on CVs, interviews, and negotiation strategies.
By Chad Hudnall, managing editor, ACR Press