Radiologic technologist vacancy rates at radiology facilities across the United States continue to decline across all disciplines, according to data collected in the annual Radiology Staffing Survey from the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT). The survey included questions regarding the staffing at each facility, demographics, recruitment initiatives, and retention rates of employees in each facility’'s respective radiology department.
Overall radiologic technologist vacancy rates declined from an average of 10.3% unfilled FTE positions reported in 2003 to 2.1% in 2010. Cardiovascular interventional (CVIT) has shown the most significant change, declining from a 14.6% vacancy rate in 2003 to 3.5% in 2010. The discipline with the highest vacancy rate is sonography, currently with an average 4.6% vacancy rate. Vacancy rates for other disciplines include 3.4% for MR, 2.6% for CT, 2.1% for nuclear medicine technologists and radiography, and 1.8% for mammography technologists.
Of the 1,654 survey respondents, 71.2% said that they experienced no increase in budgeted FTEs over the past year. But those facilities that did increase the number of radiologic technologist FTEs cited changes in patient demand as the leading factor (14.5%) and changes in patient throughput per day (9.4%) as the second most important driving force behind the increase. Sixty-two percent of facilities said they did not decrease the number of budgeted FTEs, but 18.4% did so, also because of changes in patient demand.
In terms of regional comparisons, the Mountain geographic area (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and Utah) reported the highest vacancy rate (3.9%) across all disciplines. The Pacific region (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii) had the next highest rate at 3.6%. The East South Central region (Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama) reported 1.3%, which was the lowest vacancy rate for all of the regions.
There are several reasons for the decline in vacancy rates for radiologic technologists, but according to John Culbertson, director of research for the ASRT, the primary factor is that over the past seven years, the number of radiologic technologists graduating and entering the workforce has remained consistent. "Another major factor is that there is a collective 'wait and see' approach in terms of the economy and health care reform," he says. "Many imaging centers are waiting to recruit until the economy turns around. There are also a lot of people delaying retirement to safeguard their incomes until the economy rebounds, leaving fewer available positions in the marketplace."
The decline in vacancies from the 2009 survey was slight, with all of the disciplines experiencing a change of less than 1%. In terms of attrition rates and recruitment initiatives, 46.5% of the facilities surveyed reported that no turnover had occurred; and 54.4% said they were not recruiting new FTEs.
The types of facilities surveyed included community hospitals, freestanding clinics, teaching facilities, government hospitals, and university medical centers. The mean budgeted FTEs for all the specialties represented in the survey were: radiography (10.6), sonography (4.1), computed tomography (5.0), MRI (3.8), mammography (3.9), nuclear medicine/PET (2.9), cardiovascular interventional (4.6) and other (4.6). Titles of those surveyed were: department/facility manager or director (42.4%), chief technologist (33.5%), and other (26.1%).