6 ways healthcare organizations can help the disruptive radiologist


Radiologists, like all other people, can sometimes react to difficult situations with disruptive behavior. On April 11, Clinical Imaging published an article citing numerous underlying causes that can lead to radiologists becoming uncooperative or unprofessional, from general burnout and stress to skill deficiencies, impairment, or frustrations with the electronic medical record.

Understanding these underlying causes and how radiologists react to them can help healthcare organizations address them.

“There are opportunities and tools where radiology practice leaders and organizations can intervene to assist the disruptive radiologist,” writes lead author Karen E. Gerlach, MD, MS, MBA, of the MD University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and co-authors.

Here are six ways that the authors suggest healthcare organizations can step in to combat disruptive behavior and its negative consequences. These include:

   1. Training:

Use training to correct deficiencies in hard skills as well as deficiencies in communicating with colleagues. Try to identify any issues and offer training as early as possible.

   2. Interviews: 

Revamp the interview process to include a structured interview. Then, use that interview as an opportunity to share information about the organization’s code of behavior. This sets expectations and gains buy-in before the radiologist is hired.

   3. Intervention and Assistance: 

Develop and utilize an employee assistance program for employees whose personal problems are contributing to burnout or otherwise affecting their workplace behavior. Often, contracting with outside organizations for this purpose can offer a more confidential process that physicians can trust.

   4. Evaluation of systemic challenges: 

Understand that each and every new product or procedural change can be a source of stress and a time burden for physicians. Continuously consult with physicians and staff to ensure that they are able to complete their scheduled work during their scheduled shift, and adjust scheduling as necessary — especially when technology is involved, where there may be a steep learning curve.

   5. Coaching: 

Individual or group coaching sessions can help radiologists prevent or combat counterproductive behaviors and work toward meaningful, long-term change.

   6. Cultural changes:

Creating a culture of mutual respect, where leadership clearly communicates the organization’s expectations and values.

When implementing any of the above changes, organizations must keep in mind that disruptive behavior manifests in many ways. While it sometimes takes the form of overt, aggressive physical and verbal conduct — such as assaults, intimidation, and criticism — it also can take the form of passive behaviors, such as being unresponsive or failing to fully complete medical records.

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