Monday, November 30, 2009

Does Radiologist Salary Matter?

Before answering the question does radiologist salary matter, it is important to know what we are discussing in the first place, namely the salary range for a radiologist. The question is more complex than it seems on the face of it, as there are many factors that play into what a radiologist's salary ultimately is. Do they work in the Southwest or the Northeast? Is it fair to compare the salary of a mammographer to the salary for an interventional radiologist? How much experience does the radiologist have? All these questions enter into the equation. However, to simplify, most people would agree that most radiologists earn between $300,000 and $500,000 across sub-specialties and regions. Clearly, a good salary by any standard, but that brings us to the questions posed above:

Does Radiologist Salary Matter?

The knee-jerk response is, of course! Sure it does! Would all these doctors be radiologists if salary did not play a role? And yes, of course, salary mattters - it is doubtful that most radiologist, or most doctors in general, would work for free. However, the point of this question isn't to question the amount of salary radiologists receive, but whether a higher salary is correlated with higher job satisfaction.

Like radiologist salary, many factors play into radiologist job satisfaction. These factors include scheduling flexibility, opportunities for career advancement, job security, and workload. Interestingly though, another factor to consider that is more intangible is the work environment. Across practice settings, having a sense of teamwork and camaraderie based on mutual respect can enhance the work experience for everyone involved, from x ray technician to the senior parter or chair of the department. This concept cannot be overstated - you will be around these people for a majority of your day, so you might as well like them.

If salary were the only consideration, you would expect to see all radiologists competing for the jobs with the highest compensation, but clearly this is not the case. In fact, some commentators view an excessive emphasis on income as a sign of job dissatisfaction. The sense that salary is all that matters implies that the physician has lost interest in the work itself and is looking for other outlets in order to feel a sense of worth. Fortunately, practices and hospitals are increasingly likely to provide resources these issues earlier instead of letting them fester and affect job performance. Ultimately, salary is only one of many items that play into a radiologist's job satisfaction.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Locum Tenens Radiology Jobs Gaining Popularity

Locum tenens radiology jobs have been around for a long time but have recently become more popular. This trend is especially marked among mid-career radiologists looking for more career flexibility. According to Medscape:
Plagued by issues of managed care, mounting paperwork, malpractice costs, and diminishing reimbursements, a percentage of physicians are stepping away from traditional practices to explore alternative career options. Some have chosen to hang out a new shingle: doctor for hire.

In previous years, locum tenens (a Latin phrase meaning "to stand in another's place") positions were typically filled by early career and semiretired physicians, but recently more midcareer physicians are choosing temporary assignments. A 2008 survey of 12,000 doctors, most of them primary care physicians, reported that 7.5% expected to work as locums in the next 3 years. In 2009, the number of physicians working as locums is anticipated to increase by 16% over that of 2008, according to a report by the Braff Group, a healthcare merger and acquisitions company.

For some physicians, working as a locum is a bridge between full-time assignments or a way to experience how medicine is practiced in various parts of the country before choosing to move to one area. For others, locum tenens work is a way to supplement retirement savings hit hard by the recession. Yet, for a growing number of physicians, locum tenens work is their preferred form of medical practice.

Clearly, the motivations for working locum tenens are quite varied, but the increasingly rigid nature of U.S. healthcare is driving physicians to consider what practice settings best fit their career goals. What are your career goals? Does locum tenens make sense for what you want to achieve? The New England Journal of Medicine recently explored this topic and noted the following:
A decade ago, physicians who elected the free-spirited locum tenens lifestyle — as a way to try out practice settings or merely explore new places — tended to cluster at either end of the career spectrum: doctors just out of training and those nearing retirement.

Those two groups still account for the majority of medical professionals who take temporary assignments, an estimated 60 percent, but there’s a shift afoot. Surveys conducted in recent years have found that a growing number of physicians who might be deemed “mid-career” are looking to locums as either a bridge to a potential career change or a semi-permanent practice option.

For New York City internist and infectious disease specialist John L. Ho, MD, locums has proved a good foundation for making his move from a 22-year stint in academia to the next chapter — whatever that may be. He is working as a hospitalist at Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford, filling in for a physician who is currently serving in the National Guard. He landed in coastal Maine after completing his first Staff Care assignment at rural Eastern Maine Medical Center.

“I always maintained my love of acute care medicine, even though my major activity at Cornell was research based. I truly got tired of running from grant to grant,” Dr. Ho said. “I am enjoying these assignments and all of the patient interactions I have now,” said Dr. Ho. He also likes the non-urban setting far more than he expected. His colleagues have been welcoming and collegial, and the patients surprisingly cordial, based on his previous experience in a large urban center. “They’re much more grateful. They actually say ‘thank you’ — and that has been gratifying,” he said.
Marci Malone, MD, is among the growing number of physicians who take locum tenens assignments regularly in addition to working full time in a practice. In fact, many colleagues look at the New York anesthesiologist quizzically when she talks about spending her “vacation” working locum tenens in remote corners of the Southwest. Since 2001, she has spent roughly a month each year working at Indian Health Service (IHS) hospitals in places like Gallup, New Mexico, and isolated Chinle, Arizona, where she has gone several times. “I have a hard time taking a vacation, so this is my idea of what to do with my spare time,” Dr. Malone said.

She finds both the work and the setting a welcome reprieve from the urban rat race, and the facilities, contrary to what some physicians might expect, she observed, are modern and well run. “The facilities may not be completely computerized, but from the anesthesia standpoint, they have almost all of the toys any of us could want,” she said. “The case load is different at IHS hospitals than at urban centers, however, because we’re not usually dealing with typical ER patients. The cases can be less demanding because most of the patients who need surgery, even if they have four comorbidities, have received a lot of regular and preventive care.”

The OR workday is often slightly shorter than her typical New York shift, but the call duty can offset that plus. “It can be just as brutal at times,” she said. Those challenges are easier to deal with, she added, because she enjoys the patients. She has grown especially fond of the Navajo Nation patients she cares for during her Arizona assignments. “They are very gracious people who have little but are willing to share what they have. Working with them helps me reset my expectations about life,” Dr. Malone said.

Hearing the experiences of these physicians shows that you could get more out of locum tenens than you would have initially expected. In addition to extra radiologist salary, you may also experience a new part of the country or new setting, interacting with patients and colleagues you never would have otherwise. Locum tenens radiology jobs could potentially broaden not only your intellectual horizons but your social ones as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Radiology Locum Tenens Salaries And Jobs

As with any job, an important consideration is salary, whether it be mammographer salary trends or interventional radiologist salaries or radiology salary trends in general. However, one aspect these discussions do not fully capture is the availability of temporary employment within radiology, also known as locum tenens positions.

What are locum tenens radiology jobs?

Locum tenens is Latin for a placeholder, or one who temporarily fulfills the duties of another. Within American medical practice, there are many opportunities for locum tenens work, especially in hospitals that are under-staffed or are work in underserved areas. Of course, by definition, these jobs are temporary in nature. Still, many practitioners find them desirable for a variety of reasons.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of locum tenens radiology positions?

As locum tenens radiology jobs are temporary, they are afforded certain benefits not available to permanent employees while denied others. In general, per Wikipedia, there are several common advantages and disadvantages to a locum tenens position in any field:
Locums provide a ready means for organisations to fill positions that are either only temporarily empty (during sickness, leave or for other reasons) or for which no long-term funding is available. Locuming also allows a professional to try (and get experienced in) a wide range of work environments or specialisation fields which a permanent employee may not encounter.

However, the locum situation also has a number of disadvantages - the transient nature means extra stress and work for the locums whenever they have to fit into a new position, and for the hiring organisation, this generally means that the required flexibility (and often, the lack of a guaranteed income) has to be rewarded with high salaries. These may in the long term create higher costs for the hiring organisation than adding more full-time positions (especially in highly-skilled, accredited professions, and unlike the situation in some professions where cheap temporary labour or significant use of interns actually undercuts wages and reduces total staff costs).

Also, and especially true in professions where knowing all procedures and past case histories is important (such as for doctors working on patients, who may dislike not being treated by their own doctor, or by constantly shifting doctors), locums may provide lesser-quality work (or be seen as posing such a risk, fairly or not). Further, locums often experience resentment from permanent staff, for example because they are paid more, or because they are considered to shoulder less responsibility.
It is up to you to weight the advantages and disadvantages of any particular situation as compared to your career goals. If you are unsure, locum tenens is something to consider trying because by its nature, it does not require a significant commitment.

Why do practices offer locum tenens jobs?

Another important to consider is the motivation of your potential employer in offering the job. Is a partner taking a sabbatical? Are they looking for someone to 'tryout' before offering a full-time position? Are they trying to provide a service for which they have a low but still significant volume of business? All of these are possible reasons, and most employers will be up-front about their reasons for creating the opportunity. Indeed, they have little incentive not to be. However, it is still your responsibility to make sure you have this question answered for that particular opportunity before making a final decision.

How much do radiologists working locum tenens get paid?

There is a wide range of compensation available for locum tenens radiology positions, depending on the specifics of the job and the work required. While it is difficult to draw a direct comparison to the salaries of, say, interventional radiologist salaries, radiologists working locum tenens can make up to $1200 to $1500 per 8 hour shift. Again, this number can vary significantly by number of studies read, the type of study being read, the specific shift (daytime vs night, weekday vs weekend), the practice setting, and geographic location.

Whether you are starting out in radiology and want to sample different practice settings, in mid career and want to broaden your clinical experience, or in the twilight of your career but still want to be an active radiologist, a locum tenens radiology job may be the right option for you. Start searching today!