Discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen, x-rays quickly became a revolutionary new technology, capable of passing through some solids, but not others. Because these newly discovered rays could pass through non-bone human tissue, casting clear shadows, they could let physicians look inside a body without physically cutting it open.
It didn’t take long for the world to imagine countless uses for x-rays, particularly in medicine and surgery, though they would also be heavily used in industrial applications. Within weeks of the announcement of the discovery, radiographs had been produced in Europe and the United States, and within only six months, x-rays were being used by battlefield physicians to find bullets inside wounded soldiers in the Greco-Turkish War.
Radiology now encompasses far more than x-rays and includes ultrasound, computed tomography, positron emission tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. And it isn’t just used for diagnosis anymore. Interventional radiology allows for innovative medical treatments with the guidance of imaging technologies, and there are numerous radiology subspecialties.
The general radiologist uses all types of radiology, and may be the radiology chief in a hospital or other medical facility. General radiology is the second most common specification claimed by the radiologist, second only to the body imaging specialty. General radiology can be an excellent first job for the newly certified radiologist because it allows him or her to experience the real world operations of medical radiology while learning to work with radiology and hospital staff.
Like other medical specialties, radiology isn’t just about the science and the patients. Also involved are financial, operational, technological, and teamwork challenges, and learning about these early in a radiology career can benefit radiologists, who frequently work as members of broad medical care teams. Working as a general radiologist also lets these physicians see first-hand how other colleagues respond to their approach and techniques, sharpening their skills on many fronts.
Radiologists and Subspecialities
The 2015 American College of Radiology Commission on Human Resources Workforce Survey, which covered more than 12,000 radiologists, determined which radiology subspecialties were most prevalent, and the different settings in which radiologists work. Body imaging, which focuses on radiology of the abdomen and torso, is the most popular subspecialty, accounting for just over 14% of radiologists. General radiologists made up the second biggest subset of radiologists, with 12.8% of the radiologist workforce. Other subspecialties and the percentage of radiologists in them include general interventional radiology (11.8%), neuroradiology (11.4%), musculoskeletal imaging (9.1%), and breast imaging (8.2%).
The majority (55%) of radiologists surveyed worked in private practice. Twenty-two percent of radiologists were employed by hospitals, and 19% worked in academic practice. Multi-specialty clinics employed 4% of radiologists, and just under 1% worked for the government or corporations.
Women and Men in Radiology
Though women make up the majority of medical residents in family medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, and obstetrics / gynecology, they only make up around 22% of radiologists, a medical specialty that is still overwhelmingly male. Of men in radiology, 58% are in private practice, and 18% work in an academic or university environment. Among women radiologists, 43% are in private practice and 31% work in academic or university settings. Fifteen percent of male radiologists are practice leaders, while 11% of female radiologists are practice leaders. Part time radiologists are more likely to be women than men, with just under one-quarter of female radiologists working part time and 10% of male radiologists working part time. Altogether, part-time radiologists accounted for 12% of radiologists.
Age Distribution in Radiology
The age distribution of radiologists makes a bell curve, with 7% of radiologists at each end of the age range: under 35 and over 65. In between the extremes, 31% of radiologists fall into the 35 to 45-year age group, and one-third fall into the 46 to 55-year age group. After age 55, the percentage of practicing radiologists falls off to 22% until age 65 and older, which accounts for 7% of radiologists.
Younger radiologists (those considered Millennials, or “Generation Y”) have different priorities than baby boomers in radiology. The younger radiologists are less focused on salary than their predecessors, but more focused on work-life balance. They’re also interested in how radiologists interact with each other on the job. Not many Millennial radiologists voice interest in becoming chief radiologists, but this could simply be a reflection of their youth and newness to the profession. Generally, younger radiologists tend to focus on results and regular hours and do not see consistently staying late and putting in a lot of hours as badges of respectability as much as older radiologists do.
Non-Physicians in the Radiology Workforce
Of course, the radiology workforce doesn’t just consist of radiologists. Radiological assistants are registered radiographers who have obtained advanced credentials that allow them to function as radiology extenders, working under the supervision of a radiologist. These assistants may take a leading role in patient management and assessment, perform various radiological exams, and may be responsible for evaluating image quality.
Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging exams and perform radiation therapy treatments. They’re the ones responsible for accurate patient positioning and ensuring high enough image quality. Technologists are also responsible for implementing radiation safety techniques to meet acceptable standards by providing protective gear and collimating equipment to minimize extraneous radiation exposure. Larger medical facilities may employ one or more radiologic nurses, who take care of physical, mental, and emotional needs of patients undergoing treatments or tests. These nurses may also be responsible for managing care plans and working with patient families on home care.
2015 Hiring Trends in Radiology
When the numbers are crunched for 2015, it is expected that between roughly 1,100 and 1,500 radiologists will have been hired, with the largest proportion accounted for by general interventionalists. Nearly half these hires are expected to take place in private practices, with about one-third in academic or university environments, and the remainder in hospitals. The southeastern US is expected to show the largest demand for radiologists in 2015.
SteleRAD is a radiology leader in South Florida. Owned and operated by Board-certified radiologists like breast imaging specialist Lisa Abrams, MD and musculoskeletal radiology specialist George Koshy, MD. SteleRAD provides services in all radiology subspecialties to hospitals, imaging centers, and medical practices throughout South Florida. If you would like to know more about how SteleRAD can assist with your radiology needs, we invite you to call us at 954-358-5250 or contact us online at any time.