Radiology’s Big Yawn

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Do you love your job? I’m not talking about every hour of every day, waking or sleeping, rain or shine—I know that there are times when all of us get frustrated with the ebb and flow of the daily routine. Do you generally care, though, about the choice that you made at the start of your career? If you’re reading this column, you are one of roughly 35,000 professionals who made a conscious choice about their career paths and who are, for the most part, working as radiologists in a practice setting or as health-care executives in an institutional setting (such as an outpatient center, hospital, or health system).

The key concept here is choice. Unless you somehow had this career thrust upon you as an unsuspecting bystander, you selected it, studied for it, searched for a place to practice your craft, and settled into a profession that requires a certain amount of dedication and active community participation in exchange for security and a nice lifestyle.

What a rather wonderful and rewarding choice that has proven to be, financially and professionally. Each of us working in the health-care profession, particularly in the medical-imaging segment, enjoys unparalleled benefits and rewards that are the envy of people around the world.

Given this, I continue to be mystified by some within the profession who are seemingly bored to tears by their jobs, are complacent about the very real threats to their practices, are apathetic with (and about) their peers and customers, and are generally unmotivated and uninspired by anything save their time off and their year-end W-2 scorecards.

Apathy and complacency are killing some aspects of today’s radiology profession. The fact that some practice partners and hospital staffers can sleepwalk through their days and still make a great living, without so much as a nod to those around them who are doing the bulk of the heavy lifting for the organization, is a sign that they are clueless about what is headed their way. The profession is experiencing a tectonic shift in its financial structure, competitive nature, definition of value, and perceived contribution to the so-called system. There are very real threats on the horizon that, left unchecked, could affect a practice’s very viability.

Yawn; some readers might reply, “Hey, Curtis, that’s what you said about the DRA, and we really didn’t see any significant disruption to the practice or our incomes.” That’s true enough, but those with the power to control your financial destiny found your Achilles’ heel during this first salvo. They know what you do with your day, they know how much money continues to flow into your sector, and they don’t like what they see. They will bring change—significant change—and that change will be most confusing for those who take their current situation for granted: those who consider it an entitlement.

Some remain oblivious to this most obvious of threats. The complacent and apathetic will be the soft spot that will reveal the vulnerability of many of today’s practitioners and practices. This needs to be confronted head-on before any meaningful strategy for protection and growth can be developed.

Start by absolutely loving what you do for a living, in a way that will be inspiring to those you encounter each day. In an environment that is positive, productive, supportive, and enthusiastic—and that is moving inexorably to meet and embrace change—the complacent around you will eventually be marginalized.

Be grateful for the career you chose and for the resulting benefits that this decision has brought you. Don’t avoid confrontation with those who are apathetic: Create a culture of accountability, and build in certain expectations and responsibilities for those who share the rewards. Insist on their active participation in protecting your business.

Be bold, be confident, and say it with me: I love my job.

Curtis Kauffman-Pickelle is publisher of imagingBiz and Radiology Business Journal, and is a 30-year veteran of the medical imaging industry. He facilitates strategic planning retreats for radiology groups.